In a reversal of Apple’s long-held lipped and secretive stance, yesterday Steve Jobs announced the company’s environmental policies. Responding to the Greenpeace campaign for a greener Apple, Jobs acknowledged a failure to communicate that – actually – Apple is doing quite well on the environmental front.

It turns out that Apple had phased out CRTs mid-2006, met RoHS restrictions years before the EU regulations went into effect, and had significantly increased the amount of e-waste recycling as a percentage of sales. Most surprising was Job’s commitments for the future. As we covered in our report on the Green My Apple campaign, Apple likes keeping things close to its chest for a reason. “It is generally not Apple’s policy to trumpet our plans for the future; we tend to talk about things we have just accomplished.”

But the results of the Green My Apple campaign must have had some effect, and Jobs recognized that this policy has left “customers, shareholders, employees and the industry in the dark about Apple’s plans to become greener”. In response, Jobs announced the removal of the bad stuff that can get trapped in our bodies and make us sick. Arsenic in displays will be eliminated by the end of 2008. By the same date it will stop using polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs). Additionally, Apple plans to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of mercury by transitioning to LED backlighting for all displays when technically and economically feasible.

Looking beyond Greenpeace’s tunnel vision focus on toxins and recycling, Apple promised more coverage of the company’s energy use and carbon footprint impacts in coming reports. We are looking forward to these reports – no use worrying about toxins and recycling if energy use is further hastening climate change.

Go Apple. Steve Jobs, thanks for listening. You’re my hero again.