This study shows your holiday's impact on the environment is much worse than you think

I try my best to be environmentally aware, but I don't always succeed. Even if you think you're environmentally conscious and take steps like recycling, driving a fuel-efficient vehicle, or being mindful of food waste, it's easy for those habits to slip away when you're on vacation. Your beach resort probably puts a plastic straw in every drink you drink, and we don't even start with the carbon footprint of air travel. So it's no surprise that new research has found that tourism's impact on the environment is much worse than previously thought.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change , found that travel may account for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions, a figure four times higher than scientists have estimated in the past. Researchers say the United States, China and India have the largest carbon footprints in the world, and much of that is due to travel. What makes travel so bad for the environment? Researchers say everything from transportation to shopping to the environmental impact of building hotels can affect an area's environmental health.

It's also worth noting that countries with smaller populations should have smaller environmental impacts, but tourists may increase greenhouse gas emissions. The Maldives, Mauritius, Cypress and Seychelles are all smaller countries, but their destinations have high carbon footprints, with international tourism accounting for 30% to 80% of CO2 emissions. The researchers also found that carbon footprints increase with wealth, as people with higher incomes tend to travel more. "We expect that tourism will account for an increasing share of the world's greenhouse gas emissions due to its high carbon intensity and continued growth," the study said.

it's complicated. Tourism is a huge source of income for both developing and developed countries - generating 107 million jobs in 2015, according to the International Labor Council. It makes sense for cities to go to great lengths to attract tourists, as it directly affects the local tourism economy in a positive direction. But research shows that tourism development comes at a cost. "The pursuit of economic growth comes with a huge carbon burden, because tourism is much more carbon intensive than other potential areas of economic development." If countries want to expand their economies scale, they must be aware of the potential negative impacts of tourism growth.

The World Tourism Organization, a United Nations agency focused on sustainable and responsible travel, advises travelers to rely less on flying and more on public transport – but research shows that even if people travel sustainably , the effect is also limited. To put it bluntly, even if you try your best to be a responsible traveler, the environmental impact of tourism is steadily increasing and shows no signs of slowing down. So, what does this mean for people who want to be environmentally conscious but also enjoy traveling the world?

You probably won't cancel your upcoming flight tickets because of these findings, but this study suggests that all our globetrotting isn't exactly sustainable in the long term, especially as the U.S. has cut climate change funding and research. Their solution is to shift the burden from travelers to political leaders by introducing a carbon tax.

If you 're on vacation, you can take steps to reduce your carbon footprint. Packing food, avoiding plastic and using public transport can all help you become more sustainable, and it doesn't hurt to encourage your traveling friends to do the same. It’s important to realize that the only real solution appears to be to reduce travel and encourage governments to prioritize CO2 emissions. Otherwise, our vacations could seriously damage the world around us in the long run. For me, summer has been filled with vacations, weddings, and graduations, but now I’m thinking about the ramifications of travel.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the journal in which this study was published, and has been updated to correctly identify the journal.