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4,000 Bottles of Fresh Air Shipped to China, Company Struggling to Keep Up With Demand
Reminiscent of a scene out of Space Balls (Perri-Air anyone?), a Canadian startup, Vitality Air, is selling bottled air from the Rocky Mountains. It may have started out as a joke, but citizens of smog-choked cities in eastern China are buying it up.
"A gag gift, that's how it started off, but you know what? There's actually a lot of demand for this in … highly polluted countries," co-founder Moses Lam told the Canadian National Post. The company was founded by Lam and Troy Paquette more than a year ago, but only began selling in China less than two months ago.
The idea came when Lam sold a bag of fresh Canadian air on eBay for 99 cents. That's steep enough for something that most people have always considered free. But when a second bag bidded up to $168 “we thought ‘hey, we might have a market for this,'” Lam said.
And people can't get enough of it. “Our first shipment of 500 bottles of fresh air were sold in four days,” Lam told The Telegraph. Flash forward to earlier this week: the company shipped 4,000 more bottles to China, most of which has been bought.
The company claims that its products can help with "hangovers, alertness and working out" while also being "your solution to pollution." The startup is struggling to keep up with demand. Each bottle is filled by hand in the Rockies. They "fill massive cans through clean compression," the company explains on its website, then they bottle it individually at their facility in Edmonton. And they even perform a "comprehensive check" after each can is filled for safety before shipping it out.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Just how much does a bottle of Rocky Mountain air cost you? A 7.7 liter bottle of Lake Louise or Banff air will run you about $32 Canadian dollars ($23 U.S. dollars). The bottle contains "fresh clean air," which contains 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen and a small amount of other gases. If you're in search of "pure premium oxygen," Vitality Air has you covered, as well. Their "pure oxygen" bottle contains 97 percent oxygen and a small amount of other gases. The startup claims it "provides upwards of 200 inhalations" for $28.99 Canadian dollars ($21 U.S. dollars).
For China’s “upper middle class who crave a better quality of life,” Vitality Air gives them the opportunity to “inject a bit of fresh air into their lives,” Harrison Wang with TAK International, Vitality’s Edmonton-based Chinese distributor, told the National Post.
This is not the first time a company has tried selling bottled air, believe it or not, nor is it the first time that Chinese citizens were eager to buy bottled air. In 2013, one Chinese businessman, Chen Guangbiao, sold cans of air reportedly taken from less industrialized regions of China for five yuan ($0.77 U.S. dollars).
China's air pollution problem is nothing new. The country has been grappling with how to clean up its air for years. A documentary highlighting China's deadly air pollution went viral earlier this year with more than 200 million views in the first five days. And a study published in August found that the air in Beijing is so polluted that breathing it does as much damage to the lungs as smoking 40 cigarettes a day, and 4,000 people are dying every day from smog in China citing coal-burning as the likely principal cause.
The issue has received widespread attention again as Beijing issued its first "red alert" for smog last week amid criticism that the government is not doing enough to address the problem. Pollution levels topped off at 634 micrograms per cubic meter in some areas. That's more than 25 times the level recommended by the World Health Organization, which is 25 micrograms per cubic meter. Beijing just issued its second warning Friday as the pollution index is forecasted to exceed 500 micrograms in Beijing and parts of Hebei province over the weekend.
Anyone need a last minute Christmas gift?
To see the devastating effect pollution has on our bodies, check out this startling video from DNews:
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?