Lonely Planet Writer

Demand for bottled air set to take your breath away

Selling fresh air by the bottle in polluted cities sounds too bizarre to be true – but believe it or not, it is happening.

Fresh air from the Rocky Mountains now being sold in China
Fresh air from the Rocky Mountains now being sold in China Image by Sam Beebe / CC BY 2.0

Increased incidents of smog has given rise to a strange new industry called air farming. ABC.net.au reports that while it sounds gimmicky, people in such cities as Shanghai and Beijing are happy to pay for that jar of fresh country air. The news site claims that citizens of such cities where air quality is a serious problem are paying as much as US$160 for a jar of air.

Air from Wales also makes a pretty penny when bottled and sold
Air from Wales also makes a pretty penny when bottled and sold Image by Gareth Thompson / CC BY 2.0

British resident Leo De Watts has seen the opportunity in this new market and is now providing bottles of air from such well-known clean air areas as Somerset, Yorkshire and Wales in the UK.  He has given each region’s air its own unique description with the Welsh variety said to have a “morning dew feel to it” whereas Somerset air has “unblemished qualities”.

Beijing smog has led to Chinese people looking for a blast of fresh air bottled in renowned clean air places such as the Rocky Mountains or Wales
Beijing smog has led to Chinese people looking for a blast of fresh air bottled in renowned clean air places such as the Rocky Mountains or Wales Image by Ilya Haykinson / CC BY-SA 2.0

In the few weeks that his business is up and running, the 27-year-old entrepreneur has already sold 180 bottles. He said that demand is so keen that it’s far outstripping what he can supply. His customers often make it clear what sort of air they are looking for. According to Mr De Watts, it means that sometimes he is on mountain tops looking for air while other times he is down in the valleys. How the product is cultivated by the air farmers is simple – they put their bottles or jars in special nets and run around their pastures to collect the air.

Mr De Watts’ company is not the first to put a price on the air that we breathe as in 2015 a Canadian start-up started selling plastic bags of air as a joke on eBay. However, they soon saw there was a serious market for what they were offering when it sold for over $200. So began the company’s work of bottling Rocky Mountain air and selling it to China at over thirty times the price of bottled water.