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Funeral home takes lead in 'green' concept
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Forsyth County News

A local funeral director has joined with a Milton man who wants to set aside 17 acres of his land to be used as a "green" cemetery.

What's a "green" cemetery?

"It's a return to the way we used to do things," said Jim Bell, the landowner. "It's Biblical. It's ashes to ashes and dust to dust. It's ultimate recycling."

Bell's idea for a "green" cemetery would offer less conventional burial methods than today's standards. The body goes in a biodegradable casket or is wrapped in a shroud. No embalming fluid is used and cemetery staff mark grave plots with flat stones.

Bell and Marty Byars of Byars Funeral Home in Cumming are awaiting final approval from the Milton City Council and mayor for the "green" cemetery.

"The mayor seems to like the idea," Bell said. "We haven't had any negative feedback on this at all."

Added Byars: "This is a very natural, dignified type of burial. We're going to make it a unique experience. We don't just drop someone in the ground."

Bell said the cemetery "will look just like a pasture."

"It will be run just like a regular cemetery, only it won't look like one," Bell said.

Byars said there are no current plans for a "green" cemetery in Forsyth County. But his funeral home will be an approved provider for the "green" cemetery, which means it can offer the option of a "green" burial to customers.

Pending approval from the Milton City Council, Byars said, the cemetery could be ready in about six months. He's already getting calls from interested volunteers.

"We've had a lot of support on this," Byars said. "People who are environmentally conscious are excited. We've had many calls."

Approval comes from the Green Burial Council, which acted as consultants in the planning stages, Bell said.

According to its Web site, the Green Burial Council has been "working since 2005 to make burial sustainable for the planet, meaningful for the families and economically viable for the provider."

Economically, Byars said a "green" burial can cost about $3,000 to 4,000, much less than a traditional burial.

"Funeral costs have escalated so much in the past few years," Byars said. "From a cost standpoint, people may want to go in that direction."

A portion of the money spent on "green" burials will go toward green space for the city of Milton, he said.

Bell said people will go for "green" burials because "they're just tired of putting so much money into the ground. It's just wasteful."

Byars said for some the allure lies in the idea's simplicity.

"A lot of people don't want the frills and thrills of a full-fledged funeral service," he said. "I want to give people choices."