The seeds of the discovery came when Suvir Mirchandani took on a science project in sixth grade, CNN reports. He noticed that when he entered middle school, he was getting a lot more handouts. He then decided on his project, which applied computer science to help environmental sustainability.
While school boards considered recycling and double-sided printing, Mirchandani examined the actual ink used on the paper, using APFill Ink Coverage Software.
“Ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume,” Mirchandani told CNN. HP Ink can cost up to $75 per ounce, while Chanel No. 5 perfume costs $38 per ounce.
After finding the most commonly-used characters in his handouts, he printed said characters out in four fonts: Garamond, Times New Roman, Comic Sans and Century Gothic. If all his handouts used Garamond as a typeface, he found his school would save $21,000 annually.
Encouraged by his teachers, Mirchandani got in touch with the Journal for Emerging Investigators. They asked him to approach the problem at the federal level, which is quite a problem indeed — the U.S. federal government spends some $1.8 billion a year on printing.
After running the same tests, he found that substituting Garamond for Times New Roman could save the government $136 million, with an additional $234 million in savings if state governments did the same.
The media and public relations manager at the Government Printing Office reportedly called Mirchandani’s work “remarkable” but would not say for sure if the office would act on the recommendations.
Some other suggestions for saved costs could be to digitize more, but Mirchandani has an easy rebuttal to that: “They can’t convert everything to a digital format. Not everyone is able to access information online. Some things still have to be printed.