SelfEE photo contest shedding light on “hidden” energy efficiency

April 1, 2014

How do you take a picture of something invisible? That’s the challenge with choosing the right image to go with an energy efficiency message. Energy efficiency advocates get jealous of colleagues who work on renewables like wind and solar, with their stock image galleries jam packed with idyllic sunrises and wind turbines dotting rolling green hills.

But do a Google image search for “energy efficiency” and your screen will fill with spiral compact fluorescent tubes. That’s twenty year-old technology that people associate with lousy light quality and unmet promises of longevity advocates are using to sell us on a cleaner future. Really, that’s the best we can do?

At Resource Media, we believe in the power of pictures to tell great stories. We’ve led the field with our groundbreaking visual communications best practices guide Seeing is Believing and recent tips for effective image selection in reproductive health and rights communications.

Energy conservation is the least controversial solution to America’s energy challenge. But how do we connect with people emotionally about something that’s largely hidden from view? To answer that question, I’m excited about a research-driven image testing project we’re conducting this year.

And, in the meantime, a Facebook contest we launched with the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) is already starting to provide answers about the ways consumers think about visualizing energy efficiency. Through the group’s new portal at, SWEEP put out a call to consumers to post their own “SelfEE,” showing how they are reducing energy use. Check out this example provided by Resource Media energy efficiency whiz Debbie Slobe (at right), or see the whole gallery at

With great donated prizes, including a General Electric efficient washing machine, cutting edge LED bulbs from Philips and Smart thermostats from Honeywell, the effort is off to a great start and attracting creative, funny and poignant entries.

How do you visualize energy efficiency? Tell us in the comments below!

Eric Jaffe