Dry towns
Perhaps you’ve heard of gun buyback programs, whereby local police departments pay for surrendered firearms, no questions asked? Now drought-stricken California towns are offering lawn buybacks to encourage water conservation. Residents can get $2 for each square foot of water-wasting lawn they surrender—and discover the beauty of native drought-tolerant plants.

For the birds
According to the American Bird Conservancy, 980 million birds are killed every year in collisions with tall glass buildings. New York–based Ennead Architects is working with conservation groups to research what glass treatments and lighting conditions birds will avoid. Now they’ve joined with the US Green Building Council to develop a LEED credit for incorporating “bird collision deterrence” into building design. It’s something to sing about.

Let the sun shine in
Doubling as roof shingles, Tesla’s solar panel tiles are made from textured glass to mimic shingles. They’re efficient but also potentially cost prohibitive—there’s the added price of the battery (or batteries) to store electricity. Still, if practical issues such as production and construction fees are resolved to be more competitive, the tiles could be an off-the-grid game changer.

Know your honey locust
The New York City parks department has mapped the location of every single street tree in all five boroughs—nearly 700,000 of them—with the named variety, trunk diameter, and environmental benefits of each (including storm water diverted, air pollutants removed, and carbon absorbed). Just in case you need another reason to love the urban canopy.

Nurture with nature
The sad truth these days is that “bad behavior” in students can often be a consequence of traumatic circumstances. To address the social and emotional needs of stressed-out students who have difficulty learning, architects MDS/Miller Dyer Spears created the trauma-informed design at Codman Academy Charter School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Gently curving hallways, different-colored floor tiles scattered like fallen leaves, and glass-walled rooms with grasses and twigs sandwiched between panes embody the theme “A Walk in the Woods.”

A class act
Create the next generation of designers? Check. Build critical infrastructure and sustainable systems? Check. Change lives of millions of Africans? Check. The mass Design Group’s African Design Center aims to train graduates of a two-year program, match them with international experts, and unleash human-centered design onto a continent whose population growth is projected at 1 billion over the next 20 years.