PART TWO: How much do periods cost in Canada?
…and how you can save both your wallet and the planet.
By Jennifer Vrouvides
In this two-part series for Menstrual Hygiene Day, guest contributor Jennifer Vrouvides explains how periods impact our economy by diving into two important topics: period poverty and the cost of menstruation. Jennifer is the founder of YourPeriodCalled.com, as well as a children’s and health learning program designer and facilitator. Originally from Montreal, Canada, she currently lives between a tiny island called Malta and the ever-vibrant Berlin. She is a passionate activist for health and well-being education and spends her days writing and managing health courses.
Over the past decade, Instagram influencers, marketers, advocates, governments and investors are jumping all over the topic of menstruation. I can’t wait for the day when more dollars go to research on helping menstruators. Maybe when “the pill” is no longer treated as the only solution for “bad periods”? Good news, we’re on the right path! We have more awareness around the experiences of menstruation than ever before. It’s a red hot topic and it’s doing great things for our rights, environment and wallets.
So, how much are you spending on your period?
The short answer is: a lot. If you live in Toronto, one of Canada’s biggest cities, menstruation costs you around $6,000 over the 40ish years you will spend menstruating. You may have read that some items you buy are taxed and others aren’t. In summary, toilet paper, soap, water, vegetables, things that are essential to our health and survival, are not taxed. But did you know that until 2015 Goods and Services Tax (GST) applied to tampons, pads, panty liners, and menstrual cups in Canada? And while debatably essential for survival, store-bought coffee and tea are not charged GST.
Putting some numbers to this, it was estimated that in 2014 that Canadian menstruators had spent about $519,976,963 on their periods. Meaning that the Canadian government made approximately $36,398,387 in taxes related to the totally natural function of menstruation in that year, but zero from grocery store coffee. Thankfully, this is no longer the case in Canada as there’s no more period tax, but it only came as a result of people advocating, engaging with decision-makers and challenging the status quo for equitable recognition of essential needs.
Environmental and opportunity cost of periods
Breaking down cost further, if you tie the sheer financial cost to environmental cost, each individual relying on disposable products like tampons and pads contributes to over 400 pounds of waste in their lifetime. A lot can be said in terms of this not being our fault, we didn’t have many alternatives until recently. However, that’s no longer the case. Visibility has led to a swift increase in period products to choose from based on preferences related to flow, ideology and budget.
As discussed in last week’s article, beyond finances and environment, being a menstruator is also expensive in terms of opportunity. Many of us are privileged enough to not worry about how the cost of period products will put us out for the month. However, this is not the case for many, many menstruators both locally and worldwide. Many do not attend school or drop out because of their period.
How to save a bunch of money (and the planet!) on your period
Personally, I bleed an average of four to five days a month, have cramps and really care about environmental impact. I’d say I’m quite average! However, when I hear how much people spend on their period in their lifetime, I’m pretty shocked. In my case, switching to sustainable period products has saved me a bunch of money and environmental guilt.
Here’s the math. About four years ago, I bought five pairs of period underwear. Two medium-flow pairs, two light-day bikini pairs, and one light-day thong. Alongside this, I bought a menstrual cup. Altogether, thanks to bundle savings and a sign-up promo code, the grand total was around $140. Aside from occasionally being caught off-guard, I have not actually bought more products since then!
Based on my average above, $140 over four years cost me $35/year, or less than $3 a month with minimal environmental impact. If we multiply that over the approximate 40 years of a menstruators life, that’s around $1,400 as opposed to $6,000. If the money saving alone isn’t enough to get you to switch to reusable products, do it for our oceans and seas, the turtles, David Attenborough and future generations.
If you want to learn more about how to lead a more sustainable period, you can check out Your Period Called’s article The Ultimate Guide to a Sustainable Period. Don’t forget to follow Your Period Called on Instagram and check out their website for more!