Construction firms are being invited to bid for the right to build five new villages in England made up of environmentally friendly homes.
Solar power is likely to be among the features on the new houses
The developments will provide a test ground for Gordon Brown's proposal for five eco-towns of up to 100,000 homes.
Some 27% of the UK's 40 million tonnes of annual CO2 emission are from homes.
The first eco-villages announced by the English Partnerships Regeneration agency will be at Hanham Hall in Bristol and Glebe Road in Peterborough.
Some 21 local authorities have expressed interest in hosting the other three sites, comprising about 150 homes each.
The government wants all new homes in England to be carbon neutral by 2016, as part of the fight against global warming.
And it has already said that new zero-carbon homes costing less than £500,000 will be exempt from stamp duty from October this year.
The new eco-villages could feature solar and wind power.
Newer technologies such as district heating systems which tap into the energy given off by industry and passive heating systems utilising the warmth given off by cookers and televisions may also be used.
English Partnerships also wants the bidders for its Carbon Challenge competition to demonstrate that they can produce homes that are affordable to buy and cheap to run.
Tenders for the Bristol site will be accepted from Tuesday, with bids for Peterborough opening shortly.
"We need more homes but we need to build them at higher standards," said housing minister Yvette Cooper.
"The purpose of the challenge is to show that the new technologies work and that they can be used in an affordable way. We want to see more affordable homes.
"It's no good if only the rich can afford to be zero carbon."