Should you change your font to go green, save money?

Colleges and businesses looking to pinch pennies and go green are focusing on an item we see every day, even at this very moment; the printer font. The difference between a pudgy font and a slim one can make a difference in budgets where hundreds of thousands of pages are printed annually (many of them showing the office pool for March Madness).

According to Consumer Reports, when you add up the cost of ink, toner, other supplies and printer depreciation, the cost per page to print an 8 1/2" x 11" document can range from 1.5 cents to a dime or more. The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay has announced plans to officially switch from a fat font (Arial) to a skinny one (Century Gothic), which it claims will reduce ink usage by 30%. (Note the word "WalletPop" in both fonts above; the Century Gothic takes up more line space, so the university could end up using more paper and negating the ink savings.)

Another strategy is being promoted by EcoFonts. This company has taken versions of popular fonts and cut down their ink usage by at least 26% by cutting tiny round holes in the letters' tails, stems, legs and arms. It claims that these holes are too small to catch the human eye. These fonts will be offered for sale, but not yet; the Web site states they will "be available soon." Private individuals will pay around $22 for a 3-year license for a font.

To save money, I've used the draft mode on my printers for years to reduce the waste of ink, and I use knockoff ink whenever possible. Also, I fight the temptation to print off documents. The more I force myself to read them on a computer screen or my Blackberry Storm, the more comfortable I grow with going paperless.

My model is science-fiction author John Scalzi, who gave up on printers years ago. I'm still working on total divestiture, but at least I'm ahead of those people who print out their e-mails.

Should you change your default font? The difference in ink use for a single person is probably slight, and I sure wouldn't switch from a standard font to an unusual one for business correspondence; that is the sign of an amateur. Garamond is an elegant, well-accepted and ink-friendly serifed alternative, though, and very slimming.

For God's sake, steer clear of Comic Sans, the most reviled font in history. And it sucks up a lot of ink.
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