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Teen says U.S. government can save $400m with a typeface change

Pittsburgh middle school student Suvir Mirchandani has come up with a novel idea to save the government millions of dollars: Mirchandani says a simple typeface change on the vast amounts of paperwork produced by the authorities each year could save as much as $400m every 12 months.

The 14 year-old attends Dorseyville Middle School and came up with the scheme as part of a study into how computer science could improve environmental stability. He analyzed teacher handouts to investigate the typefaces used and the ink required for the most common letters in each case. “Ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume,” the teenager told CNN.

Mirchandani did some calculations, working out that by sticking with the thin and lightweight Garamond rather than thicker alternatives, his school district could reduce ink consumption by 24 percent and save as much as $21,000 every year. “We were so impressed,” said Sarah Fankhauser, one of the founders of the Journal for Emerging Investigators (JEI), which eventually published the findings. “We really could see the real-world application in Suvir’s paper.”

JEI then challenged the middle school student to apply his findings to the government as a whole. With an annual printing budget of $1.8 billion to consider, the challenge was much harder, but the results were the same — around $400 million could be chopped off the annual budget. A spokesman for the Government Printing Office praised Mirchandani’s work but was non-committal on whether any typeface changes would be made, as the government looks to shift most of its paperwork onto the Web.

“I recognize it’s difficult to change someone’s behavior,” admitted Suvir Mirchandani. “That’s the most difficult part. 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. Consumers are still printing at home, they can make this change too.”

You may not be able to chop $400 million off your own annual printer ink budget, but it’s something to consider the next time you click Print.

[Image: Wikimedia Commons]

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