Vice - It may have started out in jest, but two Canadians are now profiting off a smog "red alert" in Beijing, as Chinese people buy canisters of fresh air from the Rocky Mountains.
From December 8 to December 10, Beijing was under its first-ever red alert — the highest in the four-level system adopted two years ago — for air quality, with children and the elderly being told to stay inside.
The city recommended that schools stay closed, and residents take public transit instead of driving or walking. Those who did step out were encouraged to wear masks — and some turned to ordering the air canisters created by Troy Paquette and Moses Lam.
The pair stumbled into the business venture in 2014 after talking to friends who were frequent visitors to Asia and would tell them about poor air quality in China, specifically.
As an experiment, the two captured as much air as they could in a large Ziploc freezer bag, closed it, and put it on eBay—it eventually sold for 99 cents. Their second attempt started a bidding war, someone bought the bag for an astounding $168, sparking the idea for what's now Vitality Air.
"The way we capture the air now is a bit of a trade secret," Paquette, who goes down to Banff and Lake Louise from Edmonton, Alberta to fill giant cans with air through clean compression, and brings it home to bottle it, told VICE News.
"As much as it started out as a novelty idea, with the really bad smog they've had in Beijing, we're finding people are buying it as more than just a novelty, but for everyday use" he says. "There's been quite a demand."