The world’s largest coffee chain, Starbucks, has long been noted for its creative marketing and business strategies bringing caffeine to billions. This winter, the Seattle-based drink-slinging giant is once again upping the ante with a new, eco-friendly store near its world headquarters. In early December 2011, news broke in the Pacific Northwest on a revolutionary idea in which the company’s newest store is being constructed from reused shipping containers. Taking shape in Tukwila, WA — just south of the company headquarters in downtown Seattle — a creation of four stacked rectangular metal boxes is stirring the interest of local residents and the business world alike. According to The Seattle Times, the store is designed as both a drive-thru and walk-up location in an industrial sector of the Emerald City.
Starbucks recycled shipping container
Starbucks' new store made from old shipping containers in Tukwila, WA. Photo courtesy of Inhabitat.

The containers offer 448 square feet of working spaces, which is standard for three baristas whipping up lattes, mochas and espresso behind the counter. The outside of the containers is painted in several shades of brown with a quote on one side meant to conjure green thinking: “Regenerate, Reuse, Recycle, Renew, Reclaim.” Starbucks is looking to bolster the sustainable image of the store by pursuing LEED certification.

Shipping containers have been all the rage in green circles for their seemingly endless repurposing possibilities. Whether for modular housing, stores or surf shacks, the 20-foot metal boxes are a hot topic in the sustainability profession. Seeing a company of the Fortune 500 magnitude embrace them is exciting for all. However, the future of traditional brick-and-mortar Starbucks stores surely isn’t in question. Who knows, maybe this store is being used as a marketing stunt in a typically stale part of town. Or maybe this is the beginning of a new standard in retail. According to the Seattle Times article, “Starbucks hopes to use containers for short- or long-term cafes on properties awaiting development and in areas with lots of car traffic.” What’s thrilling is that it appears, one way or another, the café where so may of us fuel up for the day is looking to implement greener, attention-grabbing strategies to improve the environment while still offering cups of jittery goodness to the masses.