Savings, conservation start with small steps

In the annals of ideas to save taxpayer dollars, we liked one suggestion from a 14-year-old from the Pittsburgh area. His simple but brilliant idea? Use lighter type fonts and save ink. That’s it.

The idea began as a science fair project. Suvir Mirchandani wanted to help his Pittsburgh-area middle school cut waste; so, for the science fair, he started thinking about the many handouts his teachers gave him. He wanted to save money and reduce paper use.

Suvir studied commonly used characters (e, t, a, o and r) to see how much ink was used for each letter in common typefaces: Garamond, Times New Roman, Century Gothic and Comic Sans.

After much figuring, Suvir discovered that by using the thinner Garamond, his school district could reduce ink consumption by 24 percent. That added up to a savings of $21,000 annually.

His teacher encouraged Suvir in his ambition to publish the work. The youngster found the Journal for Emerging Investigators, which provides a forum for the research of middle and high school students.

Peer reviewers at the journal were impressed, but like scientists everywhere, had more questions. Just how far could this savings go?

They encouraged Suvir to tackle the federal government, which has an annual printing budget of $1.8 billion. It turns out, Suvir found, that a thinner font in federal printing potentially could save — as much as $136 million a year through a savings in ink. He figures some $234 million more could be saved if all state governments joined.

Of course, little is as simple as it first seems. Turns out the reason Garamond is lighter is that the typeface is smaller — all 12-point types are not created equal. To make it more readable, Garamond might have to be printed in a larger point size, which means that some savings might vanish.

What still attracts us to this idea is Suvir’s concept: Find small ways to save and conserve. Lighter type, fewer ink cartridges, not as many pieces of paper. It might not work for all of government, but it certainly can work in homes and businesses.

The same notion could work in other areas of our lives, whether we are reusing forks and knives and giving up plasticware, or using the same coffee cup repeatedly and not tossing disposables.

We want to use bags that can be used over and over again. It’s a habit shoppers can learn, and one that is working in such places as Hawaii, cities in California or countries such as Ireland.

The entire world, in fact, understands that we just can’t use and toss. That’s true whether we are talking about ink and paper, plastic bags or the other conveniences of modern life that lead to waste.


— The Santa Fe New Mexican

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