14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani’s science fair project was to determine how his middle school could reduce ink usage to cut waste and cost. What he found would save his school thousands of dollars, and, if applied to the federal and state governments, millions!
“Ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume,” Suvir says with a chuckle.
He’s right: Chanel No. 5 perfume costs $38 per ounce, while the equivalent amount of Hewlett-Packard printer ink can cost up to $75.
So Suvir decided to focus his project on finding ways to cut down on the costly liquid.
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.
With encouragement from his teacher and the founders of the Journal for Emerging Investigaors, Suvir applied his research to a larger institution, the government.
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.