It was hard to keep up with CAS senior Emily Genser between her fast-paced talk, overwhelming enthusiasm and the bagel she kept munching. Even without her rapidity and the food interrupting her sentences, it would probably still be diffic
ult to keep pace with Genser’s busy life. A leader in what seems to be every environment-related activity on campus, Genser has dedicated her time at NYU to creating a greener and more sustainable community.
It is difficult to believe that when Genser entered college, she didn’t realize global warming was a serious issue until her first-semester Climate Change professor “calmly scared the shit out of [her].” The professor alerted Genser to new problems that demanded immediate attention. Although Genser’s passion for the environment came at a later stage in her academic career, it arrived in full force as she gravitated toward every opportunity she found, both at NYU and in New York City.
Students and faculty pass by Genser’s contributions everyday, whether it is in the form of a compost bin in one of seven dining halls, a recycling center around campus or the technoscrap collections awaiting pickup in the basement of Palladium residence hall. But Genser refuses to take full credit for any of these accomplishments, emphasizing the roles of her peers and NYU.
“Nobody builds anything alone,” Genser said. “I just happen to connect people in a way that gets things done.”
Still, it is impossible not to praise Genser when she is at the forefront of these initiatives. Dividing her time between her jobs as the Recycling and Composting program coordinator and Sustainability Task Force member, Genser could be called a real-life environmental superwoman. Her latest project involves measuring the climate change footprint of NYU’s waste stream and creating ways to reduce it. Double majoring in environmental studies and history, Genser tackles environmental issues from several perspectives.
“Having a history background helps a lot and gives me resources I wouldn’t normally have to address certain problems,” Genser said. “You can’t solve present problems without looking to the past.”
Genser seeks ways to alter communities outside of NYU, too. Her previous positions with Democracy Now! and Do Something extend from her passion for the environment into other avenues of activism.
“You can’t just care about what immediately affects you,” she said. “How are you going to say, ‘Not in my backyard?’ You have to say, ‘Not on my planet.’”
What makes Genser even more of a superwoman is how her life is a skillful balancing act — fun and downtime are necessary parts of her schedule. Her love of posting world maps on Tumblr, watching raunchy comedies like “Step Brothers” and planning the perfect dance party, as she did for three housewarming parties when she moved to Brooklyn, all add to her quirky yet grounded character.
With graduation looming, Genser has bigger and even better plans for the future. While she does admit it would be easier if she could decide on where she wants to reside after receiving her diploma, no matter where she goes, Genser’s passion will continue to inspire people to care about the environment, just as it has at NYU.
“There’s hope for the future,” she said.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Dec. 13 print edition. Tatiana Baez is a deputy university editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.