Every year we celebrate Ganesha Chaturthi and I make it a point to make my own Ganesha idol. The main reason being that I love creating it. I believe that it is a service to God when I put my skills and effort to craft the idol. It gives me great pleasure to create the idol and worship it on Ganesha Chaturthi.
I mostly use clay to model the idol, and since I don't bake the model, I paint it with a water based paint. My philosophy has always been to use the materials available in nature, and around us. I say that I mostly use clay because I use other materials (paper, cardboard, wire) to provide the skeleton to the model and hold it together. This is especially true for the four hands as well as the trunk.
The Hindu scriptures say that Goddess Parvathi created Ganesha out of the dirt (saffron paste) off her body. In order to follow a similar route, some say that we should only create the idol out of clay (earth, sand, dirt, etc.). I have always used clay to create my idols. I love the texture and pliable nature of clay. I love working with clay.
And, at the time of immersion, it is fitting that we give back to nature, what came from nature. Clay lets me accomplish this.
Nowadays, people have started using all kinds of materials to create the Ganesha idol. The most common one being plaster-of-paris. First, plaster-of-paris is not a naturally occurring material. Second, plaster-of-paris does not disintegrate easily when immersed in water. Plaster-of-paris is not a nature friendly material. To top it, most manufacturers use oil or latex based paints to obtain a glossy look. Even these are not environment friendly, and are known to harm fish and other marine life.
Since the practice is always to immerse the idol back into water after the pooja, why not make the idol out of the materials we find in riverbeds or lakes: Clay.
Always buy or create idols made of clay, and water based natural paints. Let lord Ganesha help keep this planet green.
OM Sri Ganeshaya Namaha.