Since 1997, the OJR Education Foundation has presented Distinguished Alumni Awards to graduates who have made an outstanding contribution to their vocation and community. The first awardee was James Crater, Class of 1971. Below, we have included the original article provided during Jim’s 1997 induction followed by an update provided by Jim in April 2023. What an AMAZING OJR ALUM!!
1997: James Crater graduated from the Owen J. Roberts High School in 1971. He grew up in North Coventry spending much of his youth exploring the outdoors. From the ages of 8 through 18, Jim was involved in the Boy Scouts earning the God and Country Award as well as the Order of the Arrow.
While a student at Owen J. Roberts, Jim was active as a student trainer, audiovisual aide, and a yearbook photographer. A recycling project was started at the High School in 1971 by a group of students under the leadership of Roger Breidinger. In the mid 70’s Jim became involved with the volunteer program and as the volume increased a non-profit recycling corporation was founded. This corporation, under Jim Crater’s guidance, is now known as Recycling Services, Inc., located in North Coventry. It is the oldest community recycling program in Pennsylvania as well as one of the most extensive residential programs of its type in the world.
Jim’s affiliations include The Schuylkill Riverkeepers, the North East Sustainable Energy Society, Pennsylvania Resource Council, Tri-County Area Chamber of Commerce, Pennsylvania Alliance for Native Americans, HARK (a Reading-based healing arts group), Berks County Recycling Coalition, and Berks County Earth Day Committee.
Jim has received numerous awards including The Audubon Society Conservation Award, Good Samaritan Award from American Waste Digest, first place for Individual Achievement from the Pennsylvania Resource Council, Daughters of the American Revolution National Conservation Award, and Proclamations from Chester County Commissioners, the House of Representatives, Governor Ridge, former Lt. Governor Single, Institute for Local Self Reliance, Earth 2000, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
April 2023: Recently, we contacted Jim and asked him to give us an update. He kindly responded with the following. It is clear that Jim continues to make extraordinary contributions to the community and the world!
Since 1997 and getting the first OJR Alumni Award, I have been kind of busy. While filming a segment for Greenworks TV, the camera ran down. I hooked it up to the inverter on my electric Porsche and finished filming what they called, “Energy Inventors.” They called me the Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison of the environment movement! I like the Franklin connection, but am not so sure about Edison.
Many of you are aware of projects that I have been involved with over the years, but there are some that even my Board didn’t know about. Here are just a few:
- Care of the Great Oak
- Common Thread
- Exercise to Energy (E2E) – (Pictured: Jim used 10 of these, plus solar, to power 50+ music events.)
- Where’s My Can? (satellite tracking of recyclables)
- Mobile Solar Electric Unit (used to power more than 50 music events by solar and pedal power)
- Land preservation projects connected to Native American village sites
As for the Gulf Oil Spill, I just have to say things aren’t always what they seem. If everyone played their part, the world would be very different today. It would be an interesting story to tell (maybe another book). Kevin Costner, Dr. Robert Ballard and Jimmy Carter played their parts well, others not so well.
I have had 6 wind generators, 3 electric cars, many cars, trucks and tractors running on vegetable oil, many solar panels and taught energy savings, and had a permit to make solar distilled alcohol (sunshine). I also do solar power welding of found object art and expect to have a solar furnace set up this summer. My latest interest in solar is that of a light capacitor. It stores light as light – nothing much on it recently, but I did find a company that was able to stop light using cold temps and fiber optics…fun stuff!
For the last 10 years, I have been living a zero waste lifestyle. After running the most extensive recycling program for nearly 50 years, a lesson I learned along the way is that you don’t get to zero waste by trying to recycle everything. You get there by changing your lifestyle. Habit changes are harder than technical fixes, but well worth the effort.
So, there is some of the story. I’m still working of and on with my book with a tentative name, “Lessons from Sassafras Country”. I will have a table at the Berks County Earth Day 2023 event on Saturday, April 22 at Reading City Park from 12-6pm. Hopefully some good questions and experiences to share.