How’s this for dystopian? A Canadian startup is selling bottled fresh air in China

uk fossil fuel car ban pollution
Elwynn/123RF
Tourists visiting Beijing in the hope of seeing the city’s famous landmarks will be lucky to see anything at all at the moment as the Chinese capital struggles with a particularly acute episode of air pollution. In fact, it’s so bad that officials have in recent days been forced to issue their first ever “red alert” warnings.

And for residents who have to endure severely toxic air sometimes several times a year, the situation must surely be a whole lot grimmer.

Helping to provide Beijing citizens with some much-needed respite from the suffocating smog, and possibly make a few bucks in the process, a Canadian startup has started selling fresh air – yes, air – to customers there.

The company, Vitality Air, told CNN that its first batch of 500 canisters sold out in less than two weeks when it went on sale on a Chinese e-commerce site last month.

Those who spend up to $20 for a can are able to treat their straining lungs to pure, clean air taken direct from the Rocky Mountain town of Banff, about 60 miles west of Calgary.

vitality-air

Moses Lam, the startup’s co-founder, said the idea of selling fresh air came to him last year when he managed to sell a bag of ziplocked air on eBay for 99 cents.

As absurd as it may sound, Lam told CNN he visits Banff every few weeks from his base in Edmonton to “hand bottle” the air, which he then exports to China.

He added, “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.”

Vitality Air, which has been in business for around six months, sells some of its bottled air to customers in Canada, but mainly as a fun gift (don’t they have enough of the stuff already? Like, out there?). However, the fact that some folks in China’s worst-polluted cities are prepared to spend out for it appears to reflect the severity of the situation, or indicates that their sense of humor has been warped by the murky outside air.

Some of the testimonials on the startup’s website certainly make for an amusing read. “Air, as it was meant to be,” says one, while another comments, “I love my Banff air, respiration is just more fun now.”

Striking a note of caution, Hong Kong-based pollution expert Professor Wallace Leung told CNN that bottles of fresh air would do little to ease the plight of those living in Beijing and other polluted cities, suggesting that the focus should instead be on filtering out poisonous particles – what he calls the “invisible killers” – emanating from factories, vehicles, and other sources.

Mobile

Taking shots in the dark with Night Sight, the Pixel’s newest photo feature

The Google Pixel range has always been the home of some of the mobile world's best phone cameras. That performance is now getting even better with the introduction of the low-light Night Sight mode.
Emerging Tech

Students will compete in Dubai this week with a transforming smart home

Modular smart homes are all the rage, and now some students from Virginia Tech are putting their money on their FutureHAUS, a modular, solar-powered, transforming smart home they're taking to the Solar Decathlon in Dubai.
Deals

The best cheap-but-awesome PS4 game deals under $20

The PlayStation 4 has hit its stride in recent years and is now more affordable than ever. If you have a PS4 or are thinking of buying one, we’ve collected some must-have games. The best part? Each of these is just $20 or less.
Deals

Bigger than Black Friday: Don’t miss the best Single’s Day deals

Thanks to AliExpress, Single's Day – the world's largest retail day – is no longer a foreign affair. If you're ready to do some early holiday shopping or want to score some discounts ahead of Black Friday, we've rounded up some of the…
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX makes rocketry look easy, sticks yet another Falcon 9 landing

SpaceX is due to perform its latest Falcon 9 rocket launch and landing on November 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Here's how you can watch the proceedings live.
Emerging Tech

In a weighty decision, scientists prepare to redefine the kilogram

Metrologists are meeting at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles to vote on whether to redefine the kilogram as a constant that can be observed in the natural world.
Photography

See the National Forests like never before in these awe-inspiring drone videos

What's the difference between a National Park and a National Forest? Drones. With no ban on drones in National Forests -- at least, not yet -- filmmakers have a way to capture the immensity of these locations with stunning results.
Emerging Tech

Google’s balloon internet is coming to Kenya in 2019

In order to bring the internet to those who lack it, a company called Loon is launching balloons into the stratosphere. From more than 12 miles up, these balloons beam connectivity over a large area on the ground.
Emerging Tech

Hikers missing on Mount Fuji could soon find a drone buzzing above their heads

Hikers who go missing while climbing Japan's highest mountain could soon find a drone buzzing above their head. A new system using the flying machines has been set up on Mount Fuji for future search-and-rescue missions.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk receives FCC approval to launch over 7,500 satellites into space

Not surprisingly, SpaceX is thinking big with Starlink, its space-based global broadband network. This week, the company received FCC approval to launch 7,518 satellites into a low-Earth orbit for its satellite internet service.
Cars

The world’s first 3D-printed titanium wheels are so intricate they look fake

HRE Performance Wheels and GE Additive have teamed up to create the world's first 3D-printed titanium wheels. They are not only impressively durable, but extremely lightweight as well.
Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.