GreenBiz Weekly Roundup: Verizon Wireless Awash in Criticism, Japan's $21B Solar Space Project and More

GreenBiz Weekly Roundup: Verizon Wireless Awash in Criticism, Japan's $21B Solar Space Project and More

A mountaintop removal site — Image by JWRandolph via Wikipedia.
Our weekly roundup of news items to supplement our daily coverage.

Verizon Wireless Takes Heat for Sponsorship of Rally Backed by Coal Interests

Verizon Wireless's participation as a sponsor of the "Friends of America" rally on Labor Day in West Virginia has raised the ire of Center for Biological Diversity leaders, whose outrage has set the blogosphere abuzz and unleashed waves of criticism against the telecommunications firm.

The center told the Washington Post that as of today an online protest letter had the support of  80,000.

Friends of America bills its rally as an opportunity to "stand up for American jobs" and sign a petition against the Waxman-Markey bill. The daylong event, which culminates with an evening concert that features Hank Williams, Jr., Ted Nugent, and John Rich, is largely organized by the coal industry, according to an Associated Press report picked up by The venue is a former mountain removal site -- that is, a former surface mine.

In a video clip on the rally website, Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, whose firm is the largest producer of Central Appalachian coal, is quoted as saying: "We're going to have Hank Williams Jr. and a really good time, but we're also going to learn how environmental extremists and corporate America are both trying to destroy your job."

On its Green Initiatives page, the telecommunications company says "environmental stewardship is ingrained in Verizon's heritage."

{related_content}Regarding the Friends of America event,  spokesman James Gerace told the Associated Press that Verizon's participation is a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC. The firm will be among those that paid a fee to support the community and gain access to the event to sell its products; Verizon's appearance is not a statement of company policy on any public issue, Gerace said, according to AP.

The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit that focuses on protection of endangered species and wild places, has called for a boycott of Verizon if attends the rally as planned.

MItsubishi, IHI Join Japan's $21B Solar Project in Space

Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and industrial manufacturer IHI Corp. will join a 2 trillion yen ($21 billion) Japanese effort to build a solar-power generator in space in the next 30 years to beam electricity to Earth, Bloomberg reported this week.

Sixteen firms, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., are part of the research group that plans to spend four years developing technology for the 1-gigawatt space-based solar station that is include four square kilometers of solar panels.

EPA Raises the Bar for Efficiency of Energy Star TVs

Starting May 1, televisions bearing the Energy Star label will be at least 40 percent more energy efficient than conventional models to qualify for the Energy Star label, and the big 46- to 50-inches models must be almost 50 percent more efficient than standard TVs of comparable size to bear the symbol.

The Environmental Protection Agency finalized the latest version of Energy Star specifications for televisions on Thursday. Copies of the specifications as well as corporate and NGO comments about the new rules are available at

Starbucks in UK, Ireland Now Brew All Espresso Drinks with Fairtrade Beans

All Starbucks lattes, mochas and cappuchinos sold in the United Kingdom and Ireland are now being made with Fairtrade Certified Coffee, the company said.

The new rule for espresso-based drinks went into effect this past week. The chain serves some 2 million visitors a week in the two countries, and the change is expected to boost the sales of Fairtrade certified coffee in the UK and Ireland by 18 percent this year.

U.S. Open Serves Up a Greener Tournament

Working with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the United States Tennis Association is expanding its eco-friendly efforts to shrink the environmental footprint of the event.

Measures include having recycling receptacles available throughout the grounds, compared to just 15 percent of the area, as had been the case last year and arranging to recycle as many as 20,000 Wilson tennis ball cans. The 60,000 balls will be reused by the National Tennis Center for some of its programs and then donated to community and youth programs.

Constellation Energy, the company serving the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, is to supply Green-e Certified wind renewable energy certificates to match electricity consumption during this year's open, which runs through September 13.

The USTA details its green initiative at

Milk's Carbon Footprint Is On Display at Tesco

As promised Tesco, the UK's largest grocery retailer, now labels its milk with information that details the product's carbon footprint.

Milk containers bearing the labels hit the store shelves last month. The company has promised to have 500 products labeled with their carbon footprint by the end of the year.

A mountaintop removal site — Image by JWRandolph via Wikipedia.