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The Green Life: Cut Cost and Paper by Sending the Census On Time

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March 31, 2010

Cut Cost and Paper by Sending the Census On Time

Censusmap Is there a way to cut out paper waste and trim cost from the Census? Responding by the deadline — tomorrow, April 1 — is a good start.

In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau gave Harris Corp. a $595 million contract to develop more than 525,000 handheld computers to collect data from those who did not return their census forms.

In 2008, the bureau trashed the plan, citing constant setbacks and warnings from the Government Accountability Office and Mitre Corp. that the system's kinks would not be worked out by 2010.

Reverting back to paper forms increased the cost of the census by up to $3 billion, bringing the total cost to nearly $15 billion. Some of that money goes to printing and sending those reminder letters you get in your mailbox, not only exacerbating paper use but cost too.

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, however, says the reminder forms increase the response rate by 6 to 12 percent. That increase, in turn, saves taxpayers $85 million. Why? Because the Census Bureau can scale back on the 700,000 people hired to go visit each house (consider those emissions) to collect never-received information. So consider it your environmental and economic duty to send your census form back on time.

--Nicholas Mukhar

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