Drinking Red and Thinking Green?: Hard Apple Cider Sustainability in Pennsylvania

Ethan M. Boroson, Gettysburg College
Michael A. Reali, Gettysburg College
Jason P. Sartorio, Gettysburg College

Environmental Studies Senior Thesis


The recent trend towards food sustainability is well advertised to the general public. However, while people often think of food as what’s on our plates; this is only part of food sustainability. Often overlooked is what’s in our glasses. Beverages are an important part of our food chain and demand critical attention. Hard (alcoholic) cider has become a popular drink in the American beverage market and has strong roots in Pennsylvania. Our study explores whether Pennsylvania hard cider producers, distributors, and consumers are actively thinking about sustainability concerns. We conducted interviews with producers at four Pennsylvania cideries, and conducted a sustainability web content analysis of 25 small-scale Pennsylvania hard cideries, along with two mainstream cideries (in Vermont and California) to understand how sustainability plays a role in production and distribution. To examine consumer awareness and attitudes, a questionnaire was distributed in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (135 completed). Interview results indicate that local hard cider producers are concerned about sustainability (in their 10-15 year plan). Sustainability is also evident on cidery websites, although with different emphases on environmental, social, and economic priorities. A Friedman’s test suggests environmental sustainability is prioritized. Chi-square tests suggest that local residents of Gettysburg are significantly more likely than the college students to drink local hard cider, suggesting that place attachment is important. Future studies should follow up with cideries analyzed online to compare practice to web discourse.