Monday, 31 March 2014

One for that Joe Hockey audit commission: change the font and save millions

Chanel No. 5 perfume costs $38 per ounce. The equivalent amount of Hewlett-Packard printer ink can cost up to $75. So if you are a big printer like a government saving ink can produce a big saving.
That was the theory of 14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani when he was given the task at his Pittsburgh-area middle school of trying to think of ways to cut waste and save money . CNN tells the story:
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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.
Reducing paper use through recycling and dual-sided printing had been talked about before as a way to save money and conserve resources, but there was less attention paid to the ink for which the paper served as a canvas for history and algebra handouts…
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.
Next he enlarged the letters, printed them and cut them out on cardstock paper to weigh them to verify his findings. He did three trials for each letter, graphing the ink usage for each font.
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.
Encouraged by his teacher, Suvir looked to publish his findings and stumbled on the Journal for Emerging Investigators (JEI), a publication founded by a group of Harvard grad students in 2011 that provides a forum for the work of middle school and high school students. It has the same standards as academic journals, and each submission is reviewed by grad students and academics.
Suvrir was then challenged  to apply his project to a larger scale: the federal government which, with has an annual printing expenditure of $1.8 billion.
Suvir repeated his tests on five sample pages from documents on the Government Printing Office website and got similar results –change the font, save money.
Using the General Services Administration’s estimated annual cost of ink — $467 million — Suvir concluded that if the federal government used Garamond exclusively it could save nearly 30% — or $136 million per year. An additional $234 million could be saved annually if state governments also jumped on board, he reported.
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