Robin's Nest
Robin Conte is a writer and mother of four who lives in Dunwoody. She can be contacted at

I’m a “waste not, want not” type of gal.  I believe I got that sensibility from my mother, who never met a scrap of wrapping paper that she couldn’t line shelves with.
Whatever the reason, I’ve been reducing, reusing and recycling since green was a color, not a lifestyle.  I was green before it was cool, before recycling was a household word, when people like me were merely called thrifty or frugal…or cheap.
It started when I was in elementary school.  I wrote assignments on both sides of my notebook paper until my teachers objected (and I was overruled).  Still unable to justify an unused side of paper, I now recycle my kids’ schoolwork through our home printer.  I’ve  broken a $200 copy machine because I was using the back of an assignment that had a staple in it, but I still feel like I’m saving the planet, one reused sheet of paper at a time.
It might be noble or it might be a sickness − you decide.  But I won’t waste a handful of stale corn chips.
I come from a long line of green women. My mother got her sense of resourcefulness from her mother and those of The Greatest Generation whose attitudes permeated their society.  They had no blue recycling bins, but that generation reused things until they were no longer recognizable.
I watched my Nana when I was young, and her approach made an impression on me.  She, who grew zucchini and tomatoes, could create something wonderful out of the gnarly quince apples from her backyard.  She, who would buy a whole chicken and use every bit of it, eating the livers fried with onions and cooking the gizzards in broth, then feeding them to the dog.  She, who would tear old sheets into rags and use old nylons to stuff pillows and dolls.  We’ve gotten away from that.  We clean our homes with paper towels and we’re not making sock monkeys any more.  And, let’s be honest − when’s the last time you stuffed a pillow?
I’ve tried to adopt some of my Nana’s ways. I boil our Thanksgiving turkey carcass to make broth − all I get is tasteless greasy water, but it’s tasteless greasy water that I can feel good about.  I’ve started growing tomatoes and zucchini. I use unmatched socks as dust rags. Like my mother, I’ll reuse the same piece of tin foil until there’s barely enough of it left to wrap a lemon rind.
And I have become a woman who fills her kids’ plastic Easter eggs with leftover Christmas candy.
There’s so much more that I could do.  I could throw my abundant coffee grinds into my flower beds.  I could follow Nana’s example by putting inedible vegetables into my blender and using that gross liquid to fertilize plants.  I could make Cream of Unwanted soup out of broccoli stalks and asparagus stems.  I could peel my own carrots.
But for now I’ll continue with my daily habits of green living, like saving butter wrappers to grease baking pans…and take heart in the fact that there is more in my recycle bins than there is in my trash can.
Robin Conte is a writer and mother of four who lives in Dunwoody.  She can be contacted at

Robin Conte

Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her new column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see