The Green Cheapies

Going Green (No, wait Orange! Red!)

Chad W. Lutz

PARIS, FRANCE – The Parisians are at it again. What “travesty” have the French come up with this time? Well, it’s not a mandatory declaration of mustache for all women ages 18 and over (sorry facial fetish freaks). But it is helping put a little hair on the chest of environmental awareness.

Originally introduced as a tourist attraction in 1999, the Air de Paris, a helium balloon tethered almost 500 feet above the Parc André Citroën in Paris’s 15th arrondissement, can now be seen going green (and red and orange), and has been for almost two years now.

Since 2008, the balloon, which is illuminated at night, is now used to indicate the city’s current air quality. During the day, high intensity LCD banners and screens flash the same shades of Green (good), Orange (meh), and Red (dust off the SARS mask) to indicate levels of pollution.

Some, like the general director of Aerophile, the company that owns and operates the environmental bat signal, believe the balloon to be, “a sign of respect for the air…of nature.”

In an interview with CNN, the deputy mayor of Paris, Denis Baupin, agreed with balloon director Matthieu Gobbi, citing that, “every year two or three thousand people die in the Paris area because of air pollution,” and believes that the balloon is, in part, one of the many steps in the right direction the city is taking to improve air quality and ensure the safety of its citizens.

But not everyone is bonkers for the balloon. Some are wondering about its cost effectiveness, others like one brave commenter on think it’s flat-out “retarded.” But if something as simple as a color-changing balloon using only the power of the breeze to stay afloat can get people to think about the environment, even if only a little bit, I’d say, body hair and all, the Parisians are onto something.

*Images taken from