The Masonic Home in Union City is a retirement and resident care community that occupies 267 acres in the East Bay Hills (San Francisco Bay area). The land was purchased by the Masons in 1893, and was devote of native trees and shrubs. The land was denuded of its oak forest by the early Spaniards for wood prior to the Mexican independence in 1821. The hillsides were used mainly for cattle grazing by the Mexican rancheros and even after California independence in 1846. That practice continues today.

Prior to the rancheros, the native Ohlone used the oak forest as a source of food (acorns) and the habitat was rich with other birds and mammals for hunting. The origin of the oak forest goes back to 3-4 million years as the area emerged as land. During the Ice Age there is fossil evidence of a large oak savannah. The Hayward Fault uplifted the area to create the East Bay Hills (part of the Diablo Range).

This restoration project is reforesting a now barren area with a community of California native live oaks and associated plants using compost from food waste, horse manure, and native soil. The food waste comes from the Masonic Home (2 tons per week) and the horse manure from a nearby horse stable. The compost helps to enrich depleted soil so they can sustain trees. This long term conservation activity will restore habitat and soil while educating the community through volunteer opportunities.

When Math Science Nucleus, Tri-Ced, and Masons, started to plan for the Masonic Home Oak Restoration Project in 2011 we looked for a model that we could compare. We were surprised that there was no large scale on-site food waste and other organics reforestation projects. This project is documenting if food waste can reduce the carbon footprint through innovated vegetative solutions. This demonstration project will also explore different strategies of composting from thermophilic to cold composting methods.

The establishment of trees reduces the carbon imprint while improving habitat for birds (including raptors like the golden eagle, kites, and other large birds) and native mammals, amphibians, and reptiles that have survived the urbanization of the San Francisco Bay. The use of food waste generated onsite is reducing carbon emissions by not being transported long distances.