NORMAL -- Alamo II manager Mike Flanigan already reuses or recycles his bookstore's excess cardboard and packaging materials. Adding more recycled copier and toilet paper to his shelves wouldn't be too difficult.
But as one of four Twin City businesses seeking certification from the Illinois Green Business Association, Flanigan's store at 319 North St. must also consider costlier things like low-flow faucets and toilets, and ditching its trademark red plastic checkout bags, among other changes.
"There are certain things we could easily do, and certain things we'd have trouble doing," he said.
Alamo II, Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works and Vitesse in Normal, and Integrity Technology Solutions in Bloomington, are the first locally to seek Champaign-based IGBA's certification. Three firms in Champaign have been certified, and the four local firms join 10 others that are on their way.
They're judged on energy conservation and eight other areas of sustainability. Students from Illinois State University -- ground zero for a bevy of local green initiatives -- last week presented each with their own unique action plan to meet IGBA's criteria, a key first step.
The students gave Flanigan a nine-page report of required changes and optional ones. A relatively easy must: Substitute at least 50 percent of applicable products with recycled content, such as toilet paper.
Cutting out plastic bags is trickier, Flanigan said, though it's optional. Unlike a grocery store whose repeat customers know to bring their own bags, Alamo II's business is built on infrequent visitors, he said. (Flanigan still needs his store's owner, Nebraska Book Co., to sign off on the plan.)
So why bother? Alamo II could be marketed as ISU's only green-certified bookstore, but Flanigan said his motivations are mostly personal. "I'm not a fanatic about it, but I believe in it," he said.
Destihl, 318 S. Towanda Ave., has had sustainability in mind since its 2007 opening, using products from local farms and recapturing water and steam from beer-brewing, among other things, said Chief Operating Officer Jason Bratcher.
Next up: find an approved end-user who can make biodiesel from the hundreds of pounds of fryer oil Destihl uses each month, and create a composting plan.
"It costs a lot to do this," said executive chef Manny Martinez, noting Destihl's recycled plastic to-go containers cost 27 cents apiece, instead of 3 cents for a less-green alternative.
"The bottom line is, it's common sense and it's the right thing to do," Bratcher said.
The businesses volunteered to be certified. The students did in-person consultations with the owners, in what became a final project for a four-week summer seminar on corporate social responsibility, said professor Dale Fitzgibbons.
The IGBA takes over the rest of the process, which can take six months or longer. The group does try to work with a business if a change just isn't financially viable in the short-term, said IGBA executive director Cassie Carroll.
"The business owner is busy running their business," she said. "We want to make it as easy possible and give them the best resources possible."
Fitzgibbons noted that even Wal-Mart is making sustainability strides, such as energy-efficient lighting in its stores. Even if the retail giant does it for the cost-savings alone, it still counts, Fitzgibbons said.
"It comes down to, are you doing it?" he said. "Regardless of the reason you're doing it, I'm happy with that."
Illinois Green Business Association certification covers nine areas of sustainability, each entailing audits and steps for improvement:
• Energy conservation
• Water conservation
• Waste reduction and recycling
• Pollution prevention
• General employee practices
• Community development
Other Twin City businesses, specifically offices, retail, restaurants and cafes, that want to begin the process can call the IGBA at 217-531-2179 or visit www.greencu.com