In the beginning of the month, Beijing issued its first-ever red alert for air pollution. So you may say it comes as no surprise that the sale of bottled air in that part of China has become a “thing.”
“Now we’re taking lots of pre-orders for our upcoming shipment. We’re getting close to the 1,000 mark,” said Harrison Wang, director of the start-up’s China operations.
The company bottles air from the resort town of Banff, located within Banff National Park, which is a part of the Rocky Mountains. Depending on the size of the bottle, prices range from $14 to $20. They have been selling their products in China for two months.
Explore. Dream. Discover. Breathe. pic.twitter.com/boAcLc8Qif
— Vitality Air (@vitalityair) September 1, 2015
One of the company’s co-founders, Moses Lam, came up with the idea last year as a joke. His first sale of air was packaged in a plastic ziplock, and it sold for 99 cents on eBay.
Lam now travels around 250 miles (400km) from his base in Edmonton to Banff once every couple of weeks to bottle the air.
“It’s time consuming because every one of these bottles is hand bottled. We’re dealing with fresh air, we want it to be fresh, and we don’t want to run it through machines which are oiled and greased,” said Lam.
‘In North America, we take our fresh air for granted, but in China, the situation is very different.’
Beijing’s red alert — the highest possible warning level — was put into effect from December 7-10. People were advised to stay indoors as much as possible, or to wear a protective mask if they ventured outdoors. The alert closed construction sites and schools. It also limited car use, while some factories were temporarily closed.
According to the BBC, the U.S. Embassy’s air pollution monitor in Beijing reported the intensity of the tiny particles — known as PM 2.5 — was 291 micrograms per cubic meter on Tuesday Dec 8 at 07:00 local time. The World Health Organization says 25 micrograms per cubic meter is the maximum safe level. PM 2.5s penetrate the lungs and go on to promote fatal diseases.
Watch this report from The Guardian about the red smog alert in Beijing: