14-Year-Old’s Simple Idea Could Save US Government $400 Million on Official Documents

For decades, financial experts have been struggling to substantially reduce Government spending. But a 14-year-old student from Pittsburg claims that he has figured out a way to solve it. Suvir Mirchandani suggested that to save $400 million on official documents, US government simply need to switch fonts from Times New Roman to Garamond when printing them. He said that each character is printed lighter and thinner in Garamond thereby it uses 25 percent less ink.

Suvir was looking for a way to use computer science to promote environmental sustainability, for a science fair at Dorseyville Middle School, when he came up with the idea of minimizing the use of paper and ink.

“Ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume,” he pointed out.

Suvir collected random samples of teachers’ handouts at his school and studied the most commonly used letters: ‘e, t, a, o and r’. He also studied four different type fonts namely, Garamond, Century Gothic, Times New Roman and Comic Sans, and measured how often the letters were used in each of these fonts. Then he tried to figure out how much ink was used for each letter by using a commercial tool called APFill Ink Coverage Software. He performed three trials per letter and graphed the ink usage for each font. The results of the analysis showed that Garamond’s thinner strokes could help his school district reduce ink consumption by 24%, saving about $21,000 a year.

suvir1image source

Suvir’s teachers, who are impressed by his findings, encouraged him to publish his work. In 2011 the paper was acknowledged by The Journal for Emerging Investigators (JEI), founded by Harvard grad students.

We were so impressed. We really could see the real-world application in Suvir’s paper,” said Sarah Fankhauser, one of JEI’s founders. She also said that Suvir’s submission was a real standout among the 200 others they have received since 2011.

According to JEI peer reviewers, who reviewed the paper, Suvir’s findings were clear, simple and well-explained. They began to wonder how much potential savings is really out there. Suvir then applied the project to a larger scale, which was the federal government. He started with five sample pages from documents on the Government Printing Office (GPO) website. The results gave him mind boggling figures! He realized that the US, not state and federal governments’ annual printing expenditure of $1.8 billion could be reduced by a significant $400 million.

suvir2image source

The media and public relations manager at the GPO, Gary Somerset, admitted that Suvir’s work was remarkable, but he wouldn’t commit to introducing changes in the type font. He instead focused on the GPO’s efforts to shift more content to the web.

In 1994, we were producing 20,000 copies a day of both the Federal Register and Congressional Record,” he said. “Twenty years later, we produce roughly 2,500 print copies a day.” He also pointed out that they use recycled paper for all their printing.

Suvir does understand that things like these don’t change overnight.

I recognize it’s difficult to change someone’s behavior,” he said. “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 all that change possible. Consumers are still printing at home, they can make this change too.


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