A Green Business Network Member Spotlight
We recently chatted with Diastole Scholars’ Center’s executive director, Nancy Hill, and events assistant, Jennifer StClair, about the unique event venue that joined the Green Business Network last year. Keep reading to learn more about how the center’s staff is working to keep sustainability top of mind while serving its mission.
Almost hidden by a sanctuary of trees and gardens at the corner of 25th and Holmes on Hospital Hill in Kansas City, Mo., the Diastole Scholars’ Center is perhaps one of the city’s best-kept secrets for community-focused event spaces.
Originally the private home of Dr. E. Grey Dimond, founder of UMKC’s School of Medicine, and his wife, Mary Clark Dimond, Diastole Scholars’ Center now serves as a gathering place for
more than 250 groups each year. As a support organization for UMKC, the center is a free event space for UMKC-related retreats, receptions, trainings, networking sessions, conservatory recitals, academic events, and more; however, non-profits can also reserve space for a nominal charge, and some corporate events are allowed if they have a civic or community orientation.
“The Dimonds’ vision was to create a resource for the university and the community – a gathering place where people could come together to talk and plan, to dream and collaborate. The amazing thing is that we never advertise but host groups almost every day. We’re sort of this hidden jewel – an oasis. Every day, we hear some version of ‘I had no idea this was here!’” says Nancy Hill, the center’s executive director.
The house itself is best described as mid-century modern architecture – a sort of Frank Lloyd Wright feel – with a lot of natural light, an open floor plan, and eclectic art placed throughout. “Dr. Dimond wanted it to feel very modern –deliberately eclectic. It has a youthful, contemporary feel, as opposed to a stuffy clubroom full of mahogany leather and dark paneling” says Hill.
While hosting more than 7,000 event guests each year, Diastole’s small staff of four has been working diligently to incorporate as many green initiatives into daily operations as possible.
In 2015, they worked with then KCP&L (now Evergy) to switch over all their lighting to LED. Although it’s difficult to quantify the amount of energy the switchover has saved, Hill says it has made a huge difference in time.
“As an informal metric, I almost never have to change light bulbs anymore, and before that, it was almost daily. I absolutely love it. You can only imagine with how many lights there are everywhere, how enormous it was to keep up with all of them. Now I don’t have to. I love it.”
As HVAC units wear down, Hill says they’ve replaced them with higher efficiency units. They’ve also been working to slowly replace the house’s many windows with more energy efficient, better-insulated ones.
But perhaps the area where they feel they’re making the greatest difference is with the waste generated during events hosted there.
“Being an event space, we’ve found that making our guests aware of what can be recycled, what can be composted – and that it’s simple to do – is an important thing we can do,” says Jennifer StClair, Diastole’s events assistant.
Diastole began working with Bridging The Gap’s business recycling program last year to create visible stations with clear signage on what can be recycled and composted. The center also began composting through Missouri Organic Recycling.
“We’ve been working to encourage caterers who come in here to use more sustainable products. I’ve noticed more caterers are using paper that we can compost, instead of Styrofoam,” says StClair. “We also have a full-service kitchen – a lot of groups come in and use our dishes. Very few places have that option. A lot of people take advantage of the dishes we provide.”
What are their sustainability goals for the future?
“We have our eye on solar,” says Hill. “We have a building with a great south-facing roof that would be perfect for solar, but we’d have to cut away some sycamore trees that we’re very devoted to, so we’re not willing to do that just yet. But we do have our eye on future solar.”
The team has made a point to take field trips to other businesses in order to learn more about their efforts and see how they can apply them at Diastole. Interested in exploring permeable pavement as a future project for their own parking lot, Diastole staff visited the KC Water’s campus off 63rd street on recommendation from GBN.
“We were blown away by everything they are doing there,” says Hill. “It’s awesome how much they are doing. The educational commitment that they are making as a local utility is incredible, and it definitely inspired us. Permeable pavement is on our wish list; the holdup is mostly financial.”
Hill says that, as with most nonprofits, available funds are the biggest obstacle to implementing change. “We don’t have unlimited budgets, and so we have to choose between lots of good things.”
But, she says, being involved and supporting organizations like the Green Business Network helps keep the commitment front and center and brings new ideas and connections to the surface of which they might not otherwise be aware.
“It’s so important to keep it [sustainability] in front of you at all times as you’re juggling everything else. There’s so much you can borrow from other people – learning what they’ve already learned,” says Hill.
Learn more about Diastole and its green initiatives by visiting their website.
Interested in joining the Green Business Network and sharing your story? Become a member today! GBN is a program of Bridging The Gap that educates, connects and inspires metro area businesses to implement sustainable initiatives in the workplace. Read more about GBN