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Breathe Easy

Bottled air raises awareness and offers refuge from pollution

The World Health Organization reports that over half the global population is exposed to unsafe air, and that pollution causes seven million premature deaths each year. As the issue of air quality reaches a crisis point, particularly in China, people are taking matters in their own hands by using bottled air—both as a form of protest art, and a source of breathable oxygen.

061614-1Oxygen Bunnies: China’s pollution problem is so extreme that it’s drawn comparisons to a nuclear winter. Beyond causing health problems, pollution in China has proven economically hazardous. It’s ruined agriculture, closed highways, and driven away tourists; tourism in Beijing declined by half last year. To help residents breathe easier, local tourism authorities are now providing bottled air. One such promotion features costumed characters called Oxygen Bunnies, who pass out free bottles of air collected from Tianmu mountain, where the air contains more negative oxygen ions than the normal level. The Bunnies are expected to tour the country this summer gifting more fresh air.

061614-2Air de Montcuq: Outside of pollution-choked places like China, the idea of bottled air may seem laughable. In fact, French student Antoine Deblay originally started selling cans of fresh mountain air from his hometown of Montcuq as a joke (in French, “Montcuq” is often mispronounced as “mon cul,” a mild expletive which makes a pun of the product name Air de Montcuq). Deblay’s peers seemed to respond to his ironic statement about the idea of “organic air” marketed to urbanites. The entrepreneur was able to fund his project on French crowdfunding site KissKissBankBank, collecting more than €800 from smog-suffering city dwellers around the globe.

061614-3Dupé: Bottled resources like air and water may be a necessity in Asian megacities, but their packaging contributes to pollution and waste in cleaner nations such as Australia. As part of Choose Tap, a campaign to promote tap water over bottled, Melbourne-based Yarra Valley Water “launched” the fake company Dupé. A corresponding pop-up shop and website sold packaged air, sunshine, moonlight, good vibrations, positive thoughts, good moods, and well wishes. The ruse was intended to help people become more aware and appreciative of the natural resources already available to them, while at the same time questioning the commoditization and overuse of plastic packaging.