Why Do I Hate Starbucks' Shipping Container Drive-through in Seattle So Much?

© Tom Ackerman, Starbucks

I love shipping containers; my dad used to make them, and I played with them a lot in Architectural school. I don't hate Starbucks; they have raised the appreciation of coffee from the slop we used to get to where people now actually have expectations. They sell a lot of fair trade. While I prefer to shop at a small independent, they made this business. I even like their chief architect Tony Gale; I interviewed him a few years back at Greenbuild and think their program for greening their branches is terrific.

So why do I hate this clever little bit of container design so much? it's not the fact that it is a drivethrough; Tony Gale acknowledged in Inhabitat and in my interview that drive-throughs are "a tough nut," but that is where the money and the market is in suburban America.

© Tom Ackerman, Starbucks

What I really hate is that writing on the side of that brown container, that lists every R in the world, starting with "regenerate. reuse. recycle. renew. reclaim. readjust. replace. respect. reabsorb. recreate" and more. Messages that wrap this building in a halo of green.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; click here for full size/Public Domain

Whereas we know from our favorite graph from the Lawrence Livermore Labs that the big honking SUV in the parking lot is that big green bar at the bottom, our consumption of petroleum and its conversion into carbon dioxide. It is the single biggest issue we have to deal with to solve our climate problems and our energy security problems. This building is just another cog in sprawl-automobile-energy industrial complex that we have to change if we are going to survive and prosper. We have to stop sprawl, not glorify it; covering it in the R-words is sanctimonious and delusional, and Starbucks knows it.

© Tom Ackerman, Starbucks

Call this little shipping container takeout joint what is is; a cute and clever bit of design. But don't wrap it in every R word in the dictionary and pretend that it is green, because it's not. And here are three more Rs for you that you missed: Reassess, and Repaint that Reprehensible greenwash.

Tags: Green Building | Greenwashing | Seattle

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