14-Year-Old Proves U.S. Can Save Up to $400 Million by Changing Fonts

A teen has proved that changing fonts can save the U.S. government hudreds millions.

A 14-year-old proved that fonts aren’t just fun — finding the right one could make a huge difference to the nation’s bottom line. Photo: Rob Smits/Flickr

Changing the standard typeface used by federal and state governments could save the country up to $370 million a year in ink costs, claims 14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani in his study.

It all started when the student at Dorseyville Middle School near Pittsburgh, Pa., noticed that he used much more ink when printing handouts in class than he used to in elementary school.

The teen then started wondering how wasteful it was, and then found out just how expensive ink is. At up to $75 an ounce, he points out, it’s twice as expensive as Chanel No. 5 perfume.

Using software called APFill Ink Coverage, Suvir calculated how much ink resources was used in four representative fonts — Century Gothic, Comic Sans, Garamond and the default choice of most word processors, Times New Roman. The boy discovered that Garamond is the ink-preserving winner.

Changing Times New Roman to Garamond on all handouts, Mirchandani discovered, would save his school district $21,000 a year. But later he, encouraged by teachers, applied his calculations to the U.S. government’s ink budget, which runs to $467 million a year.

In a paper published in the Journal for Emerging Investigators, the 14-year-old teen lays out how switching to Garamond can save the country up to $136 million a year on ink alone. If you add up all the publications produced by U.S., the annual savings rise to $370 million.

“We were so impressed,” JEI’s Sarah Fankhauser told reporters. “We really could really see the real-world application in Suvir’s paper.”

It’s unlikely the feds will take action on Suvir’s say so. A spokesman for the Government Printing Office said efforts towards sustainability have already begun — and as more content goes online, less documents need printing.

“In 1994, we were producing 20,000 copies a day of both the Federal Register and Congressional Record,” Gary Somerset suggested. “Twenty years later, we produce roughly 2,500 print copies a day.”

Meanwhile, the teen claims that no matter what happens, some things will need to be printed — and that making a change, even for less documents, remains worthwhile.

“Consumers are still printing at home, they can make this change too,” he said.

“I recognize it’s difficult to change someone’s behavior. That’s the most difficult part,” he told CNN. “I definitely would love to see some actual changes and I’d be happy to go as far as possible to make that change possible.”

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