Waste Reduction At Work: Office Pranks

When you spend most of your waking hours at work, I hope that at least some of those hours consist of genuine joy, laughter, and fun with your coworkers. While some may find enough satisfaction in passing around a funny comic strip or talking about the latest episode of their favorite comedy show with one another, some of us prefer to put some more creativity, teamwork, and sweat into creating a funny memory that will go down in workplace history: pranking a coworker’s office space.

When the rest of my Solid Waste Team went on vacation last year and left me all by my lonesome, I knew I had the perfect time to do the unthinkable. But I had to stay true to my rethink-reduce-reuse-recycle-conserve gig and figure out how to do this prank (during my one-hour lunch break) without creating more waste. The result?

Cubicle filled with recycle bins, magnets covering a desk

After my first foray into office pranking with sustainable panache, here are my zero waste tips:

Consider using items that are reusable or going to dispose of soon.

I used outdated recycling guide refrigerator magnets to cover Kelly’s cubicle walls and metal furniture and made it hard for her to get to her desk by stacking deskside recycling containers that we give out to businesses. Think stacking (safely!) all the conference room chairs or the entire office’s trash cans in someone’s tiny cubicle instead of filling the cubicle with environmentally-unfriendly latex balloons or foam packing peanuts.

Opt for materials that can be recycled or composted instead of those that will go in the trash as soon as your coworker gets the joke.

For example, if deciding between aluminum foil or plastic food cling wrap to cover someone’s cubicle, go for the foil. Foil is recyclable as long as it is clean and devoid of any food residue. On the other hand, plastic food cling wrap goes in the trash so I hope you know better than to run to the grocery store and buy 50 rolls of them.

If you have to buy stuff, go to a thrift shop.

As the great Macklemore preaches, $20 in your pocket goes a long way at these places. Not only will you save money and help a charitable organization, but you are also saving these pre-loved items from going to the landfill. Word has it that you can find some wonderful children’s room furniture and accessories to temporarily replace those in your coworker’s cubicle. Afterwards, you can re-donate the bought items to the thrift shop and pass on the joy to future prankers…or people who really need these items as they were meant to be used for.

With some imagination, you might already have everything you need inside your coworker’s cubicle to warrant a double-take.

Is your coworker known to have a messy desk covered with multiple piles of paper or have decaying food and dirty dishes lying around? Make that cubicle sparkle by moving the piles of paper elsewhere temporarily (some people claim those as “organized mess” so avoid reshuffling them), washing the moldy plates and utensils (because I hope he/she is not using disposable serviceware!), vacuuming, and setting a nice bouquet of fresh (and oh-so-compostable) flowers on top of his/her desk with a note that says “Martha Stewart was here”.

Just with everything else that we do on any given day, office pranks could be done successfully without using disposable resources that end up in the landfill. Laugh hard and laugh often with your coworkers, but hopefully, not at the expense of Mother Nature.