Would you pay $100 for a whiff of Welsh air?
In some of the world’s most polluted cities, people apparently will: Sales of bottled air from fresh-smelling places are taking off.
An Australian company is hawking six-packs of air bottled in places like Bondi Beach in Sydney or the eucalyptus-covered Blue Mountains. A Canadian firm sells containers of Rocky Mountain breeze as an antidote to smoggy skies (“a shot of nature,” its marketing promises).
Aethaer, a British company, is hoping to turn packaged air into a popular luxury item in fast-growing markets like China. The company sells glass jars holding 580 milliliters (a bit more than a pint) of air from Wales — with a “morning dew feel,” according to its website — for 80 pounds ($97).
The company’s 28-year-old founder, Leo De Watts, said he hoped buyers would come to regard his product as a collectible, like a “sculpture or a limited-edition print made by an artist.”
“Clean air is actually a very rare commodity,” he said.
The market for all kinds of pollution-fighting tools is booming in many smog-choked cities in China, India and Southeast Asia. Innovations abound, including air purifiers that are attached to bicycles and outdoor towers that are meant to suck up smog.
Bottled air is one of the least practical but most talked-about ideas. It can hardly replace the local atmosphere — one person would require at least eight to 10 bottles a minute to breathe. But residents in smoggy places are snapping up the stuff anyway.
The Australian bottler, Green and Clean, plans to ship about 40,000 containers a month to China starting in December, and then expand to India, Malaysia, Chile and the Middle East.
Some people purchase bottled air as a gag gift. Others buy it to inhale themselves, and say it reinvigorates them on days when the air is really bad.
“It makes my lungs feel clean,” said Pan Li, 37, who works at a technology startup in Beijing and buys about six bottles a month. “It might just be my imagination, but I’m willing to try anything.”