Greenest Font

Which font is the greenest? There are a surprising number of theories for such a small topic. I'll collect my notes here, please add your comments... or ideally home experiments!

The contenders:

  1. Century Gothic or Times New Roman
  2. EcoFont
  3. Any font that looks good at a small size

The issues

  • Less ink: Century Gothic seems to be the choice of a university that set out to save the most expensive component of printing, ink. From an environmental perspective, I expect the goal is to save paper -- and Century Gothic takes space, wasting paper.
  • There was a lot of buzz, but here's an article by the people who did the study.

  • Less ink: EcoFont prints tiny holes (too small to see as you normally read) inside the letters, supposedly providing 100% of the legibility at 80% of the ink. Apparently EcoFont has changed from being a single font (not particularly more efficient than Century Gothic) to software that can poke holes in any font.
  • Real Green: The real goal is to use the least paper and the least ink at any particular level of legibility. If you can comfortably read Garamond at 10pt and Century Gothic or EcoFont equally well at 12pt, then Garamond wins the green award. For example, Georgia looks larger than Times New Roman and can be set to a smaller font. The web is wild with suggestions, but Garamond seems to be an excellent space-saving font legible at small font sizes.

Event Printing

My tentative answer for an event planner printing a multipage conference packet: Garamond 11 to use the least pages while still being nicely readable.

Century Gothic in draft mode (or EcoFont'ed) would be good for short emails if you had to print them.

Don't forget basics
The font isn't the most important choice:

  • Print in draft mode, or look for other ways to print lighter.
  • Use print preview to make sure you don't print an extra page at the end.
  • Use both sides of a page.

Designer Notes & Footnotes

For greenies, there are probably at least two approaches. You're trying to be paperless, so let's hope that you have a real need to print before you do. Some of these are (1) records for your own eyes to be stored away, so a small, just-readable font is fine, and some are (2) intended for reading and sharing and need to be legible. If it's worth printing (ok, I think almost nothing is, but still), it might be worth 1.2 line spacing instead of single spacing.

I was suspicious that I'd find the answer among students trying to meet a professor's rules... this student recommends Garamond for very small printing.

Lots of suggestions on fonts designed to be printed small.


Try this at home and let me know! (I don't print much at all.)

  • EcoFont claims to save 20% of the ink. Try setting your printer to 80% grey (if it has such a setting) and printing in your favorite font, then printing the same page set at 100% black with EcoFont. Tell us which looks better.

Web Designers

Note that fonts that look good on-screen tend not to look great on-paper, and vice-versa. As web designers, it would be a good standard practice to change the font for the css sheet to print a little bit greener.

body {
  background: white;
  font-size: 11pt;
  font-family: "Garamond", "Times New Roman", serif;

Lots more info at A List Apart or this basic info about print-friendly css.

Please leave comments to help me improve this!

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