Change Typeface to Reduce Ink Use

We've covered technology to reduce paper use when printing. What about reducing ink use? A high school student's study found that his school could save $21,000/year by switching typefaces...and the United States government could save $234 million!

CNN reported in March 2014, "...14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani...was trying to think of ways to cut waste and save money at his Pittsburgh-area middle school. It all started as a science fair project...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...'[Printer ink] is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume,' Suvir says with a chuckle. He's right: Chanel No. 5 perfume costs $38 per ounce, while the equivalent amount of Hewlett-Packard printer ink can cost up to $75.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."

The bottom line? "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 did not stop there. He conducted additional research with the Journal of Emerging Investigators, applying his analysis to the United States Government's $1.8 billion printing budget.

His paper concluded, "The analysis predicts that the Government’s annual savings by switching to Garamond are likely to be about $234 million with worst-case savings of $62 million and best-case savings of $394 million. Indirect benefits arising from a less detrimental impact on the environment due to lower ink production and disposal volumes are not included in these estimates. Times New Roman is not as efficient as Garamond, and the third federally-recommended font, Century Gothic, is actually worse on average than the fonts used in the sample documents."

Changing typefaces to conserve resources is not a new concept. The NY Times quotes John Walters' Fifty Typefaces That Changed the World, "Venetian publishers were obliged to pursue a more economical approach after the collapse of the credit market in 1500. Griffo’s slimline design [Aldine Italic] was intended to permit more words in less space."