5 Ways to Pull Halloween Pranks on People and Not the Planet
**Disclaimer** We would totally never prank someone. Not when we were little kids, and not now, as a group of older kids, colloquially referred to as “adults”. We’ve definitely never perfected the art of TP-ing a tree and we’ve never been in escalating prank wars where we scared our friends so badly that they cried in front of our 10th grade homeroom teacher, scarring them for years. As a result, we would never suggest that any of our readers would ever do any pranking, especially on Halloween.
If you are trying to get your prank on, here are a few tips on how to be a bit better to the planet while you enrage your neighbors.
PRANK #1: CREEPY TP
One of the most classic of all Halloween pranks is the age-old tradition of throwing toilet paper onto tree branches and over roofs, more commonly known as “TPing” your enemy. There are issues galore with randomly throwing TP all over your neighborhood, most notably the annoyance of picking up all of that unnecessary waste.
Let’s start with some good news. There has not been any documented link showing that paper waste in a yard will have any detrimental long-term impacts to the wildlife or plants around your neighborhood. The environmental impacts from toilet paper mostly occur during material sourcing, pulp production, and final product manufacturing. So, if you are fully intent on ruining your neighbor’s night, here are a few ways to TP “responsibly”:
- Throw TP made of recycled content.
A 2015 scientific study out of Poland found that manufacturing TP made of waste paper was ~20% better for human health, 80% better for ecosystem quality, and used 20% fewer resources than producing toilet paper from virgin materials. According to a 2019 study in the Journal of Advanced Manufacturing and Processing, TP made of post-consumer recycled waste has emerged as the most sustainable option across most environmental impact categories and is a better choice than most types of virgin materials, including hemp and bamboo.
- Use single-ply instead of double-ply toilet paper.
A single roll of 1-ply toilet paper can be roughly 20% lighter than it’s 2-ply big bro. This means that 1-ply TP has fewer carbon emissions during transportation and requires the production of less pulp, which is very energy intensive, water intensive, and carbon intensive.
- Spray that tree down with a bidet instead of throwing toilet paper.
According to Scientific American, toilet paper production can require up to 37 gallons of embodied water per roll, or 0.66 gallons of water per bathroom trip, while bidets use only about 20% of that amount per trip (about 0.15 gallons). Ok, so it might not be the most effective option for this specific application - TP on.
PRANK #2: AN EGG-CELLENT CRIME
Is there anything higher in the Halloween Pranking Hall of Fame than egging the car and house of your local neighborhood curmudgeon? While, yes, it is technically “vandalism” and “punishable by law” in most states, and it can destroy the paint on cars and houses, those are problems for tomorrow, trusty Halloween rogues! If you want to egg away, but you still want to do right by the planet, think about doing this:
- Use plant-based egg replacements.
No yolk, some companies, like JUST Egg, have reduced the carbon footprint of their “eggs” by using mung beans, which have a carbon footprint that is 90+% smaller than the same mass of eggs.
- Throw rotten eggs instead.
Get that stink and that savings by using eggs that weren’t going to be eaten anyways. A 2014 study in the journal Poultry Science found that a dozen eggs have a carbon footprint of 2.2 kg CO2e. So, using rotten eggs gives those yolks a new life and technically would result in a lower carbon footprint.
PRANK #3: BOBBIN’ FOR ONIONS
Ah yes, the vintage Candy Onion prank. If this one doesn’t ring a bell, here’s a quick synopsis: Make a beautiful bunch of candy/caramel apples for you and all of your friends and mix in one candy/caramel-coated onion that’s roughly the same size. While your friends are enjoying their sweet candy apples, your mortal enemy is biting into a big old stinky onion. Alas! Unless they are currently starving at the top of God’s Thumb like Stanley Yelnats and Zero from the movie Holes, the unexpecting victim has been pranked. Lucky for you, you get the pleasure of a terrified reaction and a lower water footprint. As we noted in our climate-water energy nexus blog, onions and apples have roughly the same carbon footprint, but the water footprint of onions is about 10 times smaller than that of apples. If anything, your victim, and the planet, should be thanking you for their nasty candy onion. Just don’t let them get too close because their breath is sure to stink.
PRANK #4: SMASHING PUMPKINS (NOT THE 1990S ROCK BAND)
Are you the kind of person who kicks rotting pumpkins in the dead of the night? Well, after you finish wreaking havoc, let’s make sure you are cooler to the planet than you are to your neighbors.
- Compost your destruction.
Composting pumpkins instead of landfilling them can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 86%, according to an Italian study from 2009.
- Bring those pumpkin chunks to an anaerobic digestion facility.
Anaerobic digestion of food waste is an awesome way to produce energy from scraps. When you go back in the morning to apologize for your debauchery and collect the pumpkin pieces all over the ground, bring those chunks to any of the locations in Appendix A of this report from the EPA.
- Smash ‘em into the tiniest pieces.
So, if you already started smashing that pumpkin, you should just go to town and smash it as much as you can. Show no mercy! The smaller the pieces the better. Based on surface area kinetics, the smaller the pieces of pumpkin, the faster they will react with the surrounding environment and ultimately breakdown, and the less methane they will produce. Ideally though, the pumpkins should still just be composted.
PRANK #5: THE HAUNTED CHASE
There’s nothing like chasing your friends, family, or small children around the neighborhood with a working chainsaw like an absolute madman. That’ll really scare ‘em. But first, the rules:
- The CRITICAL first rule in prank chainsaw chasing is obvious: always take the chain OFF the saw beforehand.
- The second rule is probably even more obvious: always do your best to be as environmentally-friendly as possible while making the young children that are unfortunate enough to live near you cry.
A few suggestions for you:
- Invest in an electric chainsaw instead of a gas-powered one.
Electric chainsaws have begun to outperform gas powered chainsaws in terms of cutting speed and can offer up to 2 hours of cutting time on a single charge. A study in the International Journal of Forest Engineering found that the production of carbon monoxide around gas-powered chainsaws can exceed safe exposure limits for users by more than 60%, while electric chainsaws have no direct emissions to speak of. Just make sure not to get a corded one, or else your chase will be pretty short.
- Rent a chainsaw if all you are doing is tormenting America’s youth.
A study from the Journal of Cleaner Production looked at buying vs. renting chainsaws as needed and found that for 4 of the 6 environmental impacts studied, renting was a more sustainable option. Only greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel use were higher for renting than buying, mostly due to gas used during the drive to the chainsaw rental emporium. However, if you live within a few miles or if you take public transit or walk there, renting becomes the better option across all 6 environmental impacts.
Now go prank your town and try not to land in jail.
**FINAL DISCLAIMER** This bears repeating. We do not actually think you should be going out and pranking your neighbors. Some of these pranks could actually hurt someone or their property, so everyone just be cool this Halloween.