In each issue Vegetarians in Paradise presents the 24 Carrot Award to an outstanding person or organization that endeavors to practice or promote education, natural health, wholesome nutrition, and ecology techniques for the mutual benefit of humans, animals, and the earth.
Vegetarians in Paradise would like to bestow its 24 Carrot Award on environmental activist Steve Urow for his efforts on Green People, BioDemocracy and the Organic Consumer's Organization (formerly called Campaign for Food Safety), and VeggieDate.
Steve Urow wants to make changes in the world, and he's going to accomplish his mission with his small lap top computer. "I'm a computer guy, " says Steve when he announces that he has registered 20 domains on the internet and currently operates a half-dozen sites. Of those six, three have become well known to the vegetarian community: Green People, BioDemocracy, and VeggieDate.
Much of his time during the last year has been focused on VeggieDate which began in March 1999 and is currently hosting 1800 personal ads on its database. Listed on the site are people from over 35 countries. An average of 10 new people sign up daily. Steve is passionate about VeggieDate and devotes countless hours every day improving the site and promoting it with mailings to vegetarian organizations throughout the United States, speaking at national vegetarian conferences, and attending local events where he leaves flyers.
Asked about the number of success stories resulting from VeggieDate, Steve brings up the privacy issue and then says, "I personally know of five couples who are planning marriage." Single and in his thirties, Steve does not use the dating site to meet people because he does not want to bring his personal life into the operation.
When he is criticized for making money on VeggieDate, he responds," A lot of people associate money with evil. I associate money with power. I want to make a lot of money and put it back into the movement." He feels that the power base to change the world comes with money.
Currently there is a three month free trial and a $14.95 lifetime membership. He would like to change the rate structure to $14.95 a year and possibly add video and voice to the ads. "I don't want to exclude anyone who wants to participate." The site features a chat room, dating advice, a health column, and a "vegetarian alert."
The project has been covered by Boston TV station WHDH and has been mentioned in a Salon Magazine article and the book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Dating and Relating.
Along with VeggieDate, Steve has developed GreenPeople to support eco-friendly businesses. The organization which began in 1998 advocates that everyone spend money with people who support the green movement. Any member of a vegetarian group, an animal rights organization, or a co-op could advertise in the Directory of Green Products and Services.
"I want my plumber, my accountant, all the people I deal with to be environmental supporters, " he says. He asks for a $9.95 annual donation from participants and offers a free 3 month trial.
" I really do the work of five people, " Steve says. In addition to VeggieDate and GreenPeople, he spends considerable time maintaining the purefood.org web site of the Organic Consumers Organization. He also maintains homedepotsucks.com, monsantosucks.com, and dupontsucks.com., sites with domain names that attract avid environmentalists but carry content that provides valuable information of ecological concern.
He sees the internet as the only interactive medium by which word of mouth can spread phenomenally. "Through word of mouth over the long term I believe that quality web sites with true information are the only medium where you can receive a product and recommend it to friends using the same medium."
Steve has been an activist in dozens of environmental, vegetarian, and animal rights organizations in most of his adult life. Since 1997 he has been a full-time activist.
In 1983 Steve received his bachelor of sciences degree in computer sciences from the University of Wisconsin. While in Madison, he began his activist career by becoming involved with the Alliance for Animals. That same year he went to work as a computer engineer for Northern Telecom in Raleigh, North Carolina. There he was a board member of the NC Network for Animals and was co-founder of the Triangle Vegetarian Society.
He worked for Northern Telecom until 1988 when he decided to return to school to earn a master's degree. After receiving the degree in business administration, he returned to Northern Telecom, working in Atlanta, Georgia, where he began his long relationship with the Pure Food Campaign.
Steve manages to pause in his hectic schedule between Friday night and Saturday night to concentrate on Judaic studies. He also finds small blocks of time for running, weightlifting, meeting friends for lunch, and an occasional period of zoning out in front of the TV. Steve plans to get a dog in the near future. "I'm dying to get a dog. I promised myself I would get a dog. I'm stupid for not getting a dog," he chuckles.
He became a vegetarian mainly because of animal rights, but he believes that man is an omnivore. "Just because we can eat meat doesn't mean we should eat meat, " he says. He wants to move beyond that and return to the garden of Eden. "I believe that in the future people will recognize that vegetarianism is a higher spiritual plateau, something to aim for."
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