September 3, 2014
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Teenager Suvir Mirchandani shows US govt how to save $400 mn by changing fonts

PTI [ Updated 31 Mar 2014, 10:14:02 ]
Teenager Suvir Mirchandani shows US govt how to save $400 mn by changing fonts
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New Delhi: A 14-year-old Indian-origin boy has come up with a unique plan that could help the U.S. save nearly $400 million a year by merely changing the font used on official documents.

Suvir Mirchandani, a student in a Pittsburgh-area middle school, claimed that if the federal government used the Garamond font exclusively it could save about $136 million per year, nearly 30 per cent less than the estimated $467 dollars it spends annually on ink.

An additional $234 million could be saved annually if state governments also implemented the change.

Mirchandani said the idea came to him when he was trying to think of ways to cut waste and save money as part of a science fair project at his school, CNN reported.

The youngster noticed that he was getting a lot more handouts than he did in elementary school and decided to figure out if he could minimise use of paper and ink.

While recycling paper was one way to save money and conserve resources, Mirchandani said little attention had been paid to the ink used on the papers.

“Ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume,” he said, adding that he then decided to focus his project on finding ways to cut down the cost of ink.

As part of his experiment, he collected random samples of teachers’ handouts and focused on the most commonly used characters such as e, t, a, o and r.

He noted how often each character was used in different fonts like Garamond, Times New Roman, Century Gothic and Comic Sans and then measured how much ink was used for each letter, using an ink coverage software.

From his analysis, Mirchandani figured out that by using the Garamond font with its thinner strokes, his school district could reduce its ink consumption by 24 per cent and in turn save as much as $21,000 annually.

He repeated his tests on five sample pages from documents on the Government Printing Office website and got similar results that changing the font would save money.

Mirchandani’s findings have been published in the Journal for Emerging Investigators (JEI), a publication founded by a group of Harvard students in 2011 that provides a platform for the work of middle school and high school students.

One of the journal’s founders Sarah Fankhauser said that of the nearly 200 submissions they have received since 2011, Mirchandani’s project stood out.

“We were so impressed. We really could really see the real-world application in Suvir’s paper,” Fankhauser was quoted as saying.

JEI challenged the teenager to apply his project to a larger scale, preferably the federal government, to determine how much real savings his idea could generate.

The government has an annual printing expenditure of $1.8 billion and implementing Mirchandani’s idea on such a massive scale was more challenging than a school science project, the CNN report said.

Media and public relations manager at the Government Printing Office Gary Somerset described Mirchandani’s idea as “remarkable” but said it was concentrating on saving money by publishing documents online instead of hard copies.

“They can’t convert everything to a digital format,” Mirchandani said.

“Not everyone is able to access information online. Some things still have to be printed. I recognise it’s difficult to change someone’s behaviour,” he said.

But “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,” he said.

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