Starbucks Now Available in Shipping Containers

3p is proud to partner with the Presidio Graduate School’s Managerial Marketing course on a blogging series about “sustainable marketing.” This post is part of that series. To follow along, please click here.

By: Peter Rose

Starbucks’ latest sustainability engagement is to build a store built primarily out of used shipping containers.

The steel containers are commonly used for transporting coffee and teas overseas on cargo ships. Shipping containers are ending up in US shipping ports, partly due to the amount of trade inequality between China and USA. Unfortunately, these containers are being discarded and wasted after one way trips over seas. Forward thinking strategists, with an eye for “up-cycling” saw this as an opportunity…

The new store design features four containers assembled together and placed on the outskirts of Seattle, Washington. The store offers baristas roughly 448 square feet of space to work, quite similar to the behind the counter space of existing store fronts.  The familiar assortment of beverages will be available while catering to customers’ on-the-go.

The company has outsourced an architectural design firm to help steward the project.

One of the key and most appealing features centers around the containers being portable, thus providing a dynamic storefront that enables Starbucks to service customers in under developed suburban areas.  Company spokesman Alan Hilowitz said, “We can put a store like this on a lot that will be developed someday but is free for two or three years, and then we can move it.”

The architectural design and repurposing of materials is impressive but is this truly offsetting the impact of Starbucks?

This is a creative marketing idea, breaking the perception of the traditional store fronts. Although, we must remember that Starbucks is a $30 billion dollar company operating over 17,000 stores worldwide.  Repurposing a few containers may lower their carbon footprint a tiny step, but they’ll have to take bigger leaps to make a lasting impact.