Fourteen-year old Pennsylvania teen, Suvir Mirchandani came up with an idea in a sixth-grade science fair project to save Uncle Sam millions of dollars. The core of his idea was about applying computer science to progress environmental sustainability. Mirchandani had insight into the government’s efforts to scale down on paper usage by recycling and dual-side printing, but he realized that consideration was not given to the ink. He stated that ink cost double the price of French perfume, Chanel No. 5 is priced at $38 an ounce and the same amount of Hewlett-Packard printer ink can cost $75. This prompted Mirchandani to focus on ways to trim down on the cost of the expensive liquid.
Mirchandani did his research by carefully studying school handouts and paid attention to the most commonly used characters; e, t, a, o and r. He analyzed each character in four different typefaces; Times New Roman, Century Gothic, Comic Sans and Garamond. By using the software, APfill Ink Coverage, he was able to determine the amount of ink used for each character. Next he increased the size of the characters, printed them, cut them out on card stock paper and weighed them to validate his discovery. He tested it three times for each character and charted ink usage for each font. The result of his study was Garamond font is economically beneficial for conserving ink because of its thinner strokes. If his school district applied his theory, it could save $21,000 a year by decreasing ink consumption.
A teacher urged the Pennsylvania teen to publish his idea on ink conservation that could save institutions money. Mirchandani came across Journal for Emerging Investigators (JEI), a publication founded in 2011 by a group of Harvard grad students, it serves as a medium for the work of middle school and high school students. JEI has the same standards as any other academic journal and Mirchandani’s submission made an impression among scholars. His idea was seen as something that could be optimally practical in the real world. Reviewers of JEI challenged Mirchandani to practice his concept on a larger scale, the federal government. Uncle Sam expends $1.8 billion annually on printing and applying a school project analysis to federal government spending could be more complex to evaluate. However, he retrieved five documents from the Government Printing Office website and his tests rendered the same outcome, changing the font style, saves money. Uncle Sam can save millions of dollars in printing expenditures if it puts the Pennsylvania teen’s idea into practice.
Mirchandani’s findings have been collaborated on a study conducted by the Government Services Administration that concluded the cost of ink toner is roughly 26 percent of the cost of printer ownership. By conjecture of this percentage, the federal government’s ink expenditure is $467 million a year and by switching to Garamond, it could save $136 million annually.
The Pennsylvania teen’s idea has not come without dissidents claiming the idea is too simple and flawed. A typographer has noted that many printing contracts are charged by page rather than by toner and many federal government printing jobs use printing presses, not printers. It has also been pointed out that ink conservation can be attained by changing the font size too. But either way, changing font style and/or font size is deemed a bad idea, if it compromises a readable document, especially for a population with aging baby boomers who have poor eyesight.
Even though Mirchandani’s idea looks good in theory and on paper, he is smart enough to know that bureaucratic government institutions are not quick to make changes to a simple radical idea, even if it does save money. He is just glad that his idea on ink conservation by changing the font style has brought awareness, even if does not become a practical procedure. However, the Pennsylvania teen has years ahead of him to come up with other innovative ideas to save Uncle Sam millions of dollars in federal spending.
By Isriya Kendrick