The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is actually making headlines this week by switching the font it uses in its emails. The school says that printing out documents in Century Gothic rather than its old font, Arial, uses 30% less ink.
The move is part of the school's five-year plan to go green -- and save money. Printer ink costs about $10,000 per gallon. But there's just one problem: Who prints emails from colleges? It's possible that if everyone in America were to start using Century Gothic instead of Arial for all correspondence that is printed, meaningful savings could be achieved. And perhaps this is a start to that. News websites could start by making all print versions of stories appear in a green-friendly font, and readers would appreciate the savings in ink.
But the real victory here is for the school's marketing and public relations arm. The Associated Press and Wisconsin Public Radio have both picked up the story, and more news outlets will certainly follow.
Young people like to be green-friendly, and selling your college as environmentally hip is the new thing. A 2009 Princeton Review survey found that 68% of students are interested in information on the environmental friendliness of colleges they're considering, and 26% said that a college's environmental responsibility would "very much" impact their decision to apply or attend. In 2008, The Princeton Review began ranking colleges in order of green-friendliness based on three broad criteria: "whether the school's students have a campus quality of life that is healthy and sustainable, how well the school is preparing its students for employment and citizenship in a world defined by environmental challenges, and the school's overall commitment to environmental issues."
The scores are issued in a range of 60 to 99, and in 2009, 15 schools achieved a perfect score. Among the leaders were Bates College, Binghamton University, Colorado College, Northeastern University, Georgia Tech, Harvard and Yale.
Bottom line? Switching to a font that uses less ink is a great idea. But so few college students print emails they receive from the university that it's unlikely to result in meaningful savings. Still, it might well attract a few more applicants from the current crop of enviro-hipster high school students.