Solve pollution. Save lives. Protect the planet.

February 18, 2024

Honoring Pollution Fighters: Pure Earth’s 2024 Force of Nature Honorees

Pure Earth marks International Women’s Day each year to raise awareness about pollution’s under-recognized impact on maternal and child health and emphasize the crucial role women play in combating pollution’s devastating impacts.

Pollution is the largest environmental cause of death and disease in the world today but it has an outsized impact on women because of traditional gender roles, societal restrictions, a lack of opportunities, and poverty. Pollution’s disproportionate impact on maternal and child health affects entire communities and can span generations.

Pure Earth’s “Force of Nature” Celebration, hosted by Emmy-award winning WNBC News 4 reporter Sarah Wallace on March 11 in New York City, will celebrate four extraordinary women for their vital work in fighting pollution and advocating for maternal and child health worldwide. 

The 2024 Force of Nature Award honorees are: Graciela Montano, Executive Chef and Founder of Aura Mexican Cooking, Allison Charalambous, VP of Responsible Sourcing and Sustainability of Brilliant Earth, Andrea Jose Castro, jeweler and owner of Casa Collab, and Vilma Contreras, President of the AMATAF Mining Association and Women’s Mining Association of Madre de Dios, Peru.

Pregnant women can transfer toxins to their infants in utero and via breast milk. Toxic exposures have been linked to preterm births, infant mortality and developmental disabilities. Lead and mercury are increasingly making their way into kitchens around the globe through baby food, tuna, spices and cookware.

Pure Earth’s experts report that once educated on the dangers and sources of toxins, it is often the women in the community who take charge and push for change to protect their children. They are among the most vocal and active advocates, participating in workshops learning how to clean up pollutants, reduce exposures, and make work practices safer.

The four Force of Nature honorees are representative of the efforts of countless women around the world working every day to solve pollution, protect their families and communities, and advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable. They have each led the fight in their own sectors, crafting solutions in government and policy making, private entrepreneurship, and philanthropy to raise awareness and implement practical solutions to urgent environmental health issues impacting women and children.

Learn more about our 2024 Force of Nature honorees. 

Graciela Montaño is the Executive Chef and Founder of Aura Mexican Cooking. As a Pure Earth Ambassador, she advocates for lead-free kitchens and the preservation of ancestral cooking practices highlights the interconnectedness of cultural heritage and public health. She is also the author of a collaborative project with Pure Earth, Pure Earth’s Kitchen Cookbook, a cookbook of Mexican and Indian cuisine with 50 recipes that call for lead-free clay and spices.

Allison Charalambous is the VP of Responsible Sourcing and Sustainability at Brilliant Earth. With over 10 years of experience in social and environmental business practices, Allison utilizes her expertise to drive forward Brilliant Earth’s four Mission pillars: transparency, sustainability, compassion, and inclusion. These pillars touch traceability and responsible sourcing in fine jewelry supply chains, Brilliant Earth’s retail footprint and ESG Goals, grant partnerships through the Brilliant Earth Foundation, and the employee led Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Council.

Andrea José Castro is a jeweler and the Founder, Creative Director, and CEO of Casa Collab, a collaborative design lab for jewelry and wearable products founded in Peru. Through her company, Andrea has achieved a significant milestone by facilitating the first sales of responsibly mined gold from the Peruvian Amazon to both national and international markets. This achievement not only highlights the viability of ethical sourcing practices but also underscores the economic empowerment of local mining communities.

Facing the challenge of marketing mercury-free gold, Andrea conducted a two-day workshop for AMATAF concessionaires in late October 2021. Armed with basic welding tools and expertise, Andrea taught miners how to smelt gold with borax, enhancing its quality and appeal. By championing responsible mining practices and forging partnerships with organizations like Pure Earth, Andrea is paving the way for a more sustainable future in the jewelry industry.

Vilma Contreras is the President of the AMATAF Mining Association and Women’s Mining Association of Madre de Dios, Peru. Vilma epitomizes grassroots leadership and environmental stewardship. Her commitment to mercury-free mining and reforestation initiatives underscores the transformative power of community-driven action. Through partnerships with organizations like Pure Earth and Brilliant Earth, Vilma’s association has become a beacon of hope, demonstrating the feasibility and impact of sustainable mining practices.

Learn more about the 2024 Force of Nature Celebration event. 

Comments are closed.