Government Spending

Sixth Grade Whiz Figures Out How to Save the Government Almost $400 Million by Changing Fonts

|

Via CNN

Figuring out how to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars on ink is so easy a sixth grader could do it. In fact, one did. 

Suvir Mirchandani, a student at a Pittsburgh middle school, decided he wanted to look for ways to reduce waste at his school. So for a science project, he measured how much ink was used in creating enlarged versions of commonly used letters in his teachers' handouts. And then he measured how ink usage would be reduced by using different fonts. 

Printer ink can be quite expensive—almost double the per ounce price of Chanel No. 5 perfume, as Mirchandani tells CNN, which first reported the story

It turned out his school district could reduce its annual ink usage by 24 percent and save $21,000 a year by switching to Garamond, a lighter font with thinner, less ink-heavy strokes. 

After submitting his work to a journal for young researchers run by Harvard grad students, Mirchandani was encouraged to expand his research. 

The task was tougher. But the potential savings were much, much bigger. CNN reports:

With an annual printing expenditure of $1.8 billion, the government was a much more challenging task than his school science project.

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 Government 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.

So will the Government Printing Office make a change? I wouldn't count on it:

Gary Somerset, media and public relations manager at the Government Printing Office, describes Suvir's work as "remarkable." But he was noncommittal on whether the GPO would introduce changes to typeface, saying the GPO's efforts to become more environmentally sustainable were focused on shifting content to the Web.

Sounds like Mirchandani may end up learning two lessons: With a little thought, a smart person can find simple ways for the government to save money—and the government doesn't seem terribly interested in pursuing them. 

NEXT: #CancelColbert for Lampooning Racism?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I wonder what the holder of the government’s printer ink contract has to say about this?

    1. Be assured they will say it with campaign contributions and lobbyists.

      1. It’ll turn out that the only patriotic font is Impact Bold.

        1. Anything less would be treason.

          1. only godless sodomites use helvetica

      2. We at the American Ink Institute are all for saving government money. We simply have a concern about the effect on American jobs. You don’t hate American jobs, do you?

        1. I got laid off from my job as a transcriptionist monk. Burn the printing presses! Jarbs!!!!

    2. Add regulations, increase tax code, etc.

  2. What could possibly motivate the Government Printing Office to want its budget reduced?

    1. Nobody said their budget would get reduced. They just won’t be spending the money on ink.

  3. He also determined that an additional four thousand dollars could be saved by replacing “you guys” with “yinz” in all government documents.

    1. How much could be shaved by shifting entirely to txtspk?

      1. I was thinking about using the Shavian alphabet.

    2. Eliminating pig latin would also save a significant amount but by using a pig-derived language we discourage Islamic terrorists from reading something they consider to be unclean and so protect America from terrorism which really has no price tag.

      1. Iway Eesay Hatway youway didway erethway.

  4. To be fair, the GPO is probably getting documents in MS Word or some other BS WYSIWG format. If they used LaTeX, I could probably change all the fonts using a combination of find and sed. Or, if they were really efficient, a one-line change to gpo.cls. But I’m sure that is too much to expect.

    1. Word uses an XML format now, smarty-pants, so you could do something similar if you wanted.

  5. saying the GPO’s efforts to become more environmentally sustainable were focused on shifting content to the Web getting Congress to pass less laws.

    If only…

  6. Who knows, maybe in 15 years give or take a few he’ll run for Congress or some office. By the looks, he knows math better than Barack Obama, Kathleen Sebelius, Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi combined.

    1. By the looks, he knows math better than Barack Obama, Kathleen Sebelius, Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi combined.

      To be fair, I could probably say that about my dog.

    2. Actually, by his looks his driver’s license should say “McLovin”.

    3. He’s one of the best and brightest. By definition he won’t run for office.

  7. Also, why does anyone need to use color ink?

    1. Bar graphs

      1. By the power of Grayscale!

        1. Another monocolourist running amok.

          1. Won’t anyone think of the colorblind?

          2. Imagine the savings if we got rid of superfluous letters in certain words.

            1. And why all the synonyms? And articles? Tenses, conjunctions? Wasteful.

    2. stop othering!

  8. “Suvir Mirchandani”

    See, this is the kind of Asian smart-ass who will be admitted to California universities if we don’t have racial preferences for other groups!

    /sarc

    1. “See, this is the kind of Asian smart-ass who will be admitted to California universities if we don’t have racial preferences for other groups!”

      And his parents vote the D ticket!

      1. They want the D. Liberals always want the D.

  9. Printer ink can be quite expensive?almost double the per ounce price of Chanel No. 5 perfume, as Mirchandani tells CNN, which first reported the story
    FAIL

    HP printer ink is quoted as “up to $75” a floz

    Chanel no. 5 is $325 a fl oz at Macy’s

    1. Huh. Looks like he’s well on his way to a career as a politician or journalist.

    2. Gas is $4/gal, too. Bottled water? Buck and a quarter a pint.

      1. Water is stupid cheap around here. I buy 35 pints of it for about $3.00.

      2. It’s also about a buck and a quarter per gallon.

    3. Printer ink can be quite expensive?almost double the per ounce price of Chanel No. 5 perfume…

      Well, most office environments use laser technology, not inkjet technology. Would hope that the schools are using laser printing wherever possible to save money (I know, LOL).

      Also, the GPO, being an actual print shop, presumably uses printing presses for the larger jobs. Don’t know how much that ink costs.

      1. Probably not very much when you buy it by the drum.

  10. Wait, I like using Garamond, it’s an elegant font. I don’t want the government to tarnish its awesome.

    1. I like Garamond as well.

    2. The typeface of freedom is the modified version of Albertus used in The Prisoner.

      Be seeing you.

    3. All government documents should be printed in Comic Sans to represent the seriousness to which the documents were drafted.

      1. KILL. IT. WITH. FIRE!

      2. wingdings.

        the original emoji font

        1. Type in “NYC” in Wingdings!

          It proves that Microsoft orchestrated 9/11!

          *adjusts tinfoil hat and leaden codpiece*

          1. I would like to know where I can buy a leaden codpiece.

            1. Amazon of course!

              X-ray gonad shield.

          2. A skull and crossbones, a Star of David and a thumbs up is what I get.

    4. Comic Sans is the most economical of all the fonts.

    5. You’ll just have to switch to Palatino.

  11. If this is true then why is Blackle considered so environmentally-friendly? I measured how much ink it takes to cover my 20″ monitor once, it wasn’t an inconsequential amount.

    1. Blacked out screens are only energy saving for CRTs. For flat stuff, not so much. Maybe plasma.

      1. OLEDs too, I think.

  12. I really liked that guy in Rushmore.

  13. All federal government documents shall henceforth be published in the Wingding II font and all government printing software shall be written in the Forth programming language.

  14. Wes Anderson is not going to like it when this budget hawk turns his attention to Hollywood.

    1. Hollywood is now called ‘Little Armenia’, I’m not making that up, there are street signs that say just that. You mean Burbank, “Beautiful downtown Burbank”, as Johnny Carson used to say.

  15. I’ve got a better idea on how to save money on government. Like $3.7 trillion per year, or whatever godawful number it is now.

  16. Question – Which font can be photocopied more often before the copy of a copy degredation renders it illegible? Or if that’s too subjective, before our OCR software is unable to read it when scanned? Because that’s what happens with government documents, even those where a crisp new copy can be found on the computer.

    1. The font is called SQL.

      UPDATE YOUR_BANK.BALANCE = YOUR_BANK.BALANCE – YOUR_BANK.TAX_PAYMENT

      UPDATE GOVERNMENT.BALANCE = GOVERNMENT.BALANCE + YOUR_BANK.TAX_PAYMENT

  17. We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children – 14
    Heil Hitler – 88
    ? Sieg heil 14/88
    …….._
    ……./ /\
    ……/ / /
    …../ / / _
    …./_/ /…/ /\
    ….\ \ \../ / \
    …..\ \ \/ / /\ \
    ……\ \ \/ /\ \ \
    /_/\…\_\ /..\ \ \
    \ \ \../ / \…\_\/
    .\ \ \/ / /\ \
    ..\ \ \/ /\ \ \
    …\ \ /..\ \ \
    ….\_\/…/ / /
    ………./ / /
    ………/_/ /
    ………\_\/

    1. Oooh! ASCII Art! You know who else wanted to secure the existence of our pepole and a future for white children?

      1. Margaret Sanger?

      2. Well, it couldn’t be Hitler. He hated a lot of white children.

    2. That swastika is really hauling serious ass.

      1. It has places to be, JW. Not everyone can spend the whole day hanging out in the comments of H&R.

          1. Often, I see in the status bar.of.my browser, when loading reas9n, something like “cloudfront.reason.com” and I fear I have been redirected to a racist site.

    3. Has American officially come out? Or new troll?

      1. My guess would be that it’s probably one Mary Cecilia Stack.

        Of 8113 Sun Meadows Court, Fort Worth, Texas 76123, phone number 817-263-4116.

        1. Uh oh, now she’s going to make another video whining about doxing, which is a totally unfair practice except when Mary does it.

  18. Other cost saving options:

    1) Elimination of the oxford comma
    2) e e cummings-ish lack of capitalization
    3) Hyphenless phone numbers
    4) Massacre of Commonwealth peoples using “u” in words like “neighbour”
    5) Euthanisation of the H ‘n R squirrels, thereby allowing ampersands
    6) Replacing red ink with the blood of fallen child chimney sweepers and lacerated monocle polishers (it works!)
    7) Merging of adjectives, eg. totally crazy ridiculous = totes-cray-donkulous

    1. I find 4 unacceptable. Can I keep a few of them if I promise to lock them someplace with no access to printing/writing technologies?

      Also 5 has already come to pass my friend & you’re invited to use as many ampersands as your little heart desires.

      & & & &

      1. The squirrlez live – they simply threw us that little boon after we sacrificed 30 orphans (say, I am running a bit low – can Adorphan fill the inventory a bit?) on an altar made of monocles.

        1. You sir, are in luck! J.i.MB Talent Conglomerate has recently finished training its latest batch of Adorphans? for all of your cute orphan needs.

          Due to consumer demand we’ve also included some value added skills to our Adorphans?, which come in three varieties: standard, grifter, and pickpocket. Take an Adorphans? with you on your next Italian vacation and take some of the spoils that would normally go to those dirty gypsy children!

          1. Throw in time travel so I can go back to Madrid in 2009 when our camera was lifted while we were riding the subway, and so set the little ragamuffin on the original pickpocket and you’ve got yourself a deal.

            1. That would require re-appropriating technology from the vaults of Sucralose Technologies, a wholly owned subsidiary of SugarFree Industries. We have sent many of our military/industrial espionage grade Adorphans? in to gain access to this vital and lucrative tehcnology, but none have returned.

              You may of course do business with Sucralose Tech, but I warn you they take their payment in rape.

            1. Of course!

              We’ll factor in the bulk discount and the frequent buyer bonus entitles you to a weaponized Adorphan? of your choice. If you’re planning on destroying a politician’s career in the near future may I suggest the Mata Hari model?

      2. Let’s just say that the bdsm lobby happened bring over a Benjamin Franklin convention to my campaign office, & a little exception made it in that the definition of “person” doesn’t include those covered in latex & fed through a zippered hole.

        1. Do you take bitcoin?

    2. Massacre of Commonwealth peoples using “u” in words like “neighbour”

      Only if you spare certain hockey players and one of my Canadian co-workers (yes, she is quite attractive).

      The rest…well, they will have to take their chances.

      1. When the masses have been deprived of liberty for so long, is it a surprise that they forget what liberty looks like? For all we know, the squirrels may have created “Day of the Poster” numerous times, and not one of us would know. I hardly remember what a brunette pulling up jeans over a thong while twisting even looks like anymore.

    3. Massacre of Commonwealth peoples using “u” in words like “neighbour”

      Fucque Youu.

      1. A strong point. The “cqu” is excepted, of course. It is, and always will be, a tennis racquet.

        1. Funny, it doesn’t look like one, unless it has a sawed-off handle.

    4. Long live the oxford comma!

      http://slog.thestranger.com/sl…..ford-comma

  19. Was Nixon a NAZI?

    1. Nixon was a fascist, but not a NAZI.

      Do I get free foot massage for that?

      1. If you were here of course!

        I have big hands too! You know what that means….?

        1. It is difficult to find gloves that fit?

        2. You use wasteful amounts of hand.soap? Do your part for the.environment and.amputate.a.couple of those extra joints.

        3. You killed Nicole Brown Simpson?

  20. Only sixth grade and already on the NSA watch list and the TSA “No Fly” list.

    Quite an accomplishment!

  21. Doesn’t this assume the government prints just about everything on inkjet printers? Now, I realize the government largely consists of a bunch of wasteful cunts, but these same wasteful cunts also like laser printers and professional print services.

  22. $136 million x 1.5…this little kulak wants to take $204 million a year out of our economy!

    -Krugman

  23. You know what will really save the environment and printer ink/toner? An email footer that says “please consider the environment before printing this email.” Mandatory.

    1. Those are funny. Are there really people who just print all of their email or something?

  24. $400 million: roughly one hour’s worth of federal spending (not to say that we shouldn’t do it).

    1. What does that.work out to per taxpayer per hour? When the number.of.taxpayers.is.reported, does it include corporate and other non-natural-person payers?

  25. “Whiz” is a bit of an overstatement. But this takes the cake: “saying the GPO’s efforts to become more environmentally sustainable”

    Uh, the kid wasn’t trying to be environmentally sustainable, he was trying to be economically sustainable.

    Anyway, I hope the kid wins a box set of “Yes, Minister” for his efforts.

  26. Wouldn’t it be an even bigger savings if they used a sans serif font?

  27. As I read the article, I thought “they could save a lot more money by not printing documents at all, and put them on the internet instead.” Which is exactly the GPO’s response. What am I missing?

    1. They still print the documents even while putting them on the internet.

  28. The government probably still uses impact printers, the billion dollar costs are for eBay parts.

  29. I wish more kids could have the experience of having a.smart idea ignored.and ridiculed by bureaucrats; it.might help kickstart them into libertarianism. Or, turn them into authoritarian m9nsters bent on seizing the reins of control in order to implement their.own enlightened rule.

    1. Imagine how the guy who picked on Kim Jong Un in grade school must feel now (assuming he is still alive.)

      1. Didn’t Jong-Un attend private schools in Europe?

        1. And he was picked on for it.

        2. You think that anyone in NK would pick on him? That would be a good way for you and your whole extended family to get disappeared.

          1. 6 year old kids don’t think about that shit.

          2. That would be a good way for you and your whole extended family to get disappeared.

            Such was my point.

            Also, I think db is at least partially correct. I think the Dear Leader’s children were partially educated in private schools abroad.

            IIRC, they also had private tutors when at home. Parent-teacher night must have been nerve-wracking for the teachers. (or maybe just ‘racking’.)

  30. Comic sans serif would be more appropriate for the Federal Clown Show.

  31. The real question being why his school district was using damned inkjets, not laser printers.

    Toner ends up being a lot cheaper than ink, the printers are typically more durable…

  32. Please, everyone, stop commenting! Do you realize how much ink you are wasting?

    It’s for the children!

  33. Wow! That’s, like, four pennies!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2fNsdFhQL8

    You keep your eye those big stories, Reason.

  34. Printer’s ink that is more expensive than Chanel #5? I doubt it, but then again, with government contracts, who knows?

  35. Or, get this….maybe printer companies shouldnt be allowed to charge 10,000% markup on printer ink? Or maybe the government should produce its OWN ink at cost instead of wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars by buying privately-owned ink at vastly inflated cartel prices?

  36. They waste even more ink on redactions.

  37. “But he was noncommittal on whether the GPO would introduce changes to typeface, saying the GPO’s efforts to become more environmentally sustainable were focused on shifting content to the Web.”

    so the answer is no.

  38. I could probably change all the fonts using a combination of find and sed.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.