A middle school student who used computer science to develop a hundred million dollar cost savings plan for the government was featured in an article on CNN.com, “Teen to government: Change your typeface, save millions.”
Suvir Mirchandani, 14, was thinking of ways to cut waste and save money at his middle school. He noticed there had been a movement to recycle and use double-sided printing, but what about the ink (which is expensive) on all those pages.
Interested in applying computer science to promote environmental sustainability, Suvir decided he was going to figure out if there was a better way to minimize the constant flurry of paper and ink.
So Suvir decided to focus his project on finding ways to cut down on the costly liquid.
Collecting random samples of teachers’ handouts, Suvir concentrated on the most commonly used characters (e, t, a, o and r).
First, he charted how often each character was used in four different typefaces: Garamond, Times New Roman, Century Gothic and Comic Sans. Then he measured how much ink was used for each letter, using a commercial tool called APFill® Ink Coverage Software.
Next he enlarged the letters, printed them and cut them out on cardstock paper to weigh them to verify his findings. He did three trials for each letter, graphing the ink usage for each font.
From this analysis, Suvir figured out that by using Garamond with its thinner strokes, his school district could reduce its ink consumption by 24%, and in turn save as much as $21,000 annually.
Suvir was encouraged to take his cost cutting plan further and think bigger – to the federal government.
With an annual printing expenditure of $1.8 billion, the government was a much more challenging task than his school science project.
Suvir repeated his tests on five sample pages from documents on the Government Printing Office website and got similar results —change the font, save money.
Will government printers embrace a change?
Using the Government Services Administration’s estimated annual cost of ink — $467 million — Suvir concluded that if the federal government used Garamond exclusively it could save nearly 30% — or $136 million per year. An additional $234 million could be saved annually if state governments also jumped on board, he reported.