I say these words at least once per day. Today I said them a LOT. And I got some very different answers.
The first time today, it didn't go so well. I was at CVS, picking up a last minute Mother's Day card. (I got the present weeks ago, and completely forgot that I also needed a card.) I politely requested no bag. The cashier gave me a bag anyway. I removed my items from the bag and said, "I don't need a bag, but thanks anyway." She stared at me. I picked the bag up and held it out toward her, saying "Can you just use it again for the next customer?" She glared at me, took the bag, crumpled it up, and threw it away. I said, "The whole point of my not taking a bag is so that you can re-use it. Will you at least recycle that bag?" More stares and glares. "Can I please have the bag so I can recycle it if you won't? And can I speak to your manager?" SERIOUSLY? I am used to questions. I am used to amusement. I am NOT used to outright defiance, in particular from a store clerk. I was simply asking you to reuse a perfectly new bag, that YOU GAVE ME AGAINST MY WILL, that touched the outside of a card and a bag (nothing that remotely affects a future user), that I POLITELY returned to you. I'm thinking she was just having a bad day. The manager was understanding. I took the bag next door to Giant and recycled it.
However, the rest of my requests for NO PLASTIC went pretty well today. My mom and I went on a Mother's Day shopping trip (she loves shopping, especially with me, and - trust me - the feeling is mutual!). We successfully declined bags everywhere we went. At one store, they gave us a bag after we had asked for no bag. My mom politely said, "Oh, I don't actually need a bag, but thanks." And you know what? The sales associate said, "I'm sorry." Ah, the appropriate response when you do the opposite of what the customer asked and she politely reminds you!!! And it totally made my day when my mom pointed out that the person ahead of us at one store also had her own reusable bag and was refusing unnecessary shopping packaging!
You know what else? My parents have become experts at avoiding plastic shopping bags. They keep several reusable ones in their cars. My dad even picked up some cool reusable bags that fold up so they're quite small (purse-sized!) but unfold to be a full grocery bag!
To your left, the bag in folded form.
This, from the people who pitched a fit last Thanksgiving when I insisted on BUYING THEM some reusable bags. If you think you can't make a difference by changing your plastic habits, this is proof that you can. Setting an example DOES make the people in your life think. :)