THE rise of the ethical consumer is linked in no small part to an increasingly connected world that delivers daily bulletins on the myriad ways in which our daily lives contribute to suffering elsewhere.

Veganism is rapidly increasing, sustainability is in, local produce is on just about every menu in the land and only this week, I read somewhere that the smell of freshly mown grass is actually the scent given off by a plant in distress.

Advances in technology, science and communication mean that more and more of us are waking up for the first time to the often cruel reality of the supply chain, the potential consequences of our consumption or convenience, the true cost of our cheap clothes, supermarket meat and disdain for the environment.

Many of us are becoming increasingly conscious of the impact of our own lifestyles but there is undeniably still work to be done.

This week, a day at work brought me a stark reminder of my own hypocrisy– as a reporter, ethical considerations should be at the forefront of my mind on a daily basis and I’m more than familiar with the troubling consequences of unethical trade and consumption, in theory.

But, like many of us, I’ve been known to hand over cash without a second thought to those willing to provide convenience – whether that comes in the form of a clean car, a manicure or a cheap meal.

I knew the authorities were devoting their efforts to tackling trafficking and slavery in the North-East, I’d seen the press releases, thought about those affected and generally knew the worrying statistics.

Despite all of that, the issue still seemed somehow abstract – right up until I joined Cleveland Police as they raided a nail bar just a few miles from my own home, until I saw a suspected trafficking victim, barely out of her teens, shivering in the rain as she waited for a translator to tell her she would be taken away to an uncertain future, away from what is now referred to as modern day slavery. It took this first-hand experience for me to finally engage realistically with the notion that such despicable crimes are not remote and that they have been funded – in part – from my own pocket, time and time again. I’m complicit and you may be, too.

For the better, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the growing pressure to live and to purchase more thoughtfully, to resist an unrelenting tidal wave of information that shrouds in horror habits unthinkingly enshrined in our daily lives.

But to question, carefully consider and decide ethically upon every transaction we carry out, every venue we frequent, every meal we eat and every business we engage with is an exhausting and seemingly insurmountable task for many.

And so, overwhelmed, defiant or merely reluctant to reconsider long-held habits, most of us are guilty of having turned a blind eye in favour of upholding the status quo.

It is difficult to comprehend, sometimes, the small role we play in a bigger picture but in every small change that we make, in every step we take towards being a more ethical consumer and in every question we ask ourselves, there could be the possibility of a fairer world for someone, somewhere.